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Daily Archives: February 21, 2021
Posted: February 21, 2021 at 12:40 am
WASHINGTON: People returning to work following the long pandemic will find an array of tech-infused gadgetry to improve workplace safety but which could pose risks for long-term personal and medical privacy.
Temperature checks, distance monitors, digital "passports," wellness surveys and robotic cleaning and disinfection systems are being deployed in many workplaces seeking to reopen.
Tech giants and startups are offering solutions which include computer vision detection of vital signs to wearables which can offer early indications of the onset of Covid-19 and apps that keep track of health metrics.
Salesforce and IBM have partnered on a "digital health pass" to let people share their vaccination and health status on their smartphone.
Clear, a tech startup known for airport screening, has created its own health pass which is being used by organizations such as the National Hockey League and MGM Resorts.
Fitbit, the wearable tech maker recently acquired by Google, has its own "Ready for Work" program that includes daily check-ins using data from its devices.
Fitbit is equipping some 1,000 NASA employees with wearables as part of a pilot program which requires a daily log-in using various health metrics which will be tracked by the space agency.
Microsoft and insurance giant United HealthCare have deployed a ProtectWell app which includes a daily symptom screener, and Amazon has deployed a "distance assistant" in its warehouses to help employees maintain safe distances.
And a large coalition of technology firms and health organizations are working on a digital vaccination certificate, which can be used on smartphones to show evidence of inoculation for Covid-19.
'Blurs the lines'
With these systems, employees may face screenings even as they enter a building lobby, and monitoring in elevators, hallways and throughout the workplace.
The monitoring "blurs the line between people's workplace and personal lives," said Darrell West, a Brookings Institution vice president with the think tank's Center for Technology Innovation.
"It erodes longstanding medical privacy protections for many different workers."
A report last year by the consumer activist group Public Citizen identified at least 50 apps and technologies released during the pandemic "marketed as workplace surveillance tools to combat Covid-19."
The report said some systems go so far as identifying people who may not spend enough time in front of a sink to note inadequate hand-washing.
"The invasion of privacy that workers face is alarming, especially considering that the effectiveness of these technologies in mitigating the spread of Covid-19 has not yet been established," the report said.
The group said there should be clear rules on collection and storage of data, with better disclosure to employees.
A delicate balance
Employers face a delicate balance as they try to ensure workplace safety without intruding on privacy, said Forrest Briscoe, professor of management and organization at Penn State University.
Briscoe said there are legitimate reasons and precedents for requiring proof of vaccination. But these sometimes conflict with medical privacy regulations which limit a company's access to employee health data.
"You don't want the employer accessing that information for work-related decisions," Briscoe said.
Biscoe said many employers are relying on third-party tech vendors to handle the monitoring, but that has its risks as well.
"Using third-party vendors will keep the data separate," he said.
"But for some companies their business model involves gathering data and using it for some monetizable purpose and that poses a risk to privacy."
The global health crisis has inspired startups around the world to seek innovative ways to limit virus transmission, with some of those products shown at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show.
Taiwan-based FaceHeart demonstrated software which can be installed in cameras for contactless measurement of vital signs to screen for shortness of breath, high fever, dehydration, elevated heart rate and other symptoms which are early indicators of Covid-19.
Drone maker Draganfly showcased camera technology which can be used to offer alerts on social distancing, and also detect changes in people's vital signs which may be early indicators of Covid-19 infection.
A programmable robot from Misty Robotics, also shown at CES, can be adapted as a health check monitor and can also be designed to disinfect frequently used surfaces like door handles, according to the company.
But there are risks in relying too much on technologies which may be unproven or inaccurate, such as trying to detect fevers with thermal cameras among moving people, said Jay Stanley, a privacy researcher and analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union.
"Employers have a legitimate interest in safeguarding workplaces and keeping employees healthy in the context of the pandemic," Stanley said.
"But what I would worry about is employers using the pandemic to pluck and store information in a systematic way beyond what is necessary to protect health."
Read more from the original source:
Posted: at 12:40 am
PHILADELPHIA, PA Freedom of expression is among the most important civil liberties enjoyed by members of a free society. By allowing these members to question authority, freedom of expression enables a community to check itself, to make sure that the ship is pointed in the right direction and to course-correct if needed. Not only is it vital for maintaining a healthy diversity of views and opinions, but it also allows peopleincluding journaliststo stand in the public square and share ideas and information with their fellow citizens.
Over the past year, and particularly over the past several months, we have seen more and more instances of major tech companies suppressing peoples speech through censorship, eroding their ability to express themselves by revoking access to this public square.
For example, mid-October, Twitter and Facebook coordinated a campaign to censor a New York Post article that exposed emails obtained from a laptop allegedly belonging to Hunter Biden, President Joe Bidens son. The two companies took steps to limit the spread of the story by warning users that the article may contain unsafe material and locking the Post out of its own Twitter account.
Regardless of whether the article which thus far has not been debunked, and parts of which have been corroborated contains truly critical information or not, it was (and may still be) an important and legitimate news story. For Twitter and Facebook to try to shut down the story in the run-up to a major presidential election was grossly irresponsible, and it shows a concerning willingness to silence journalists in the name of safety.
During a Senate hearing on censorship involving Facebook, Google and Twitter in late October, it was revealed that Google had been suppressing content from the World Socialist Website in its search results. The revelation backs up a 2019 Wall Street Journal investigation that detailed the use of algorithms by Google to alter users search results. It also reconfirms suspicions that the tech giant has been effectively censoring WSWS articlessuch as its critical coverage of the New York Times 1619 Projectdating as far back as 2017.
While using algorithms to dictate search results may make search engines more efficient and convenient for users, it also makes it much easier to manipulate results so that they suppress certain viewpoints or information. If people who rely heavily on the Internet for news or research (as, I assume, most of us do) are only exposed to select viewpoints and publications, it is far more difficult to determine facts and gain a well-rounded understanding of the world we live in.
In another instance, YouTube announced in December that it would begin removing videos and accounts of users claiming that there was widespread election fraud in the 2020 presidential election and questioning the results.
It is highly unlikely that the election was stolen, and the lawsuits (pushed by both Donald Trump and his allies) to overturn the results have flopped. However, YouTubes decision to block this content limits users ability to assess the information presented and decide for themselves what they believe, in addition to further entrenching the beliefs of those convinced the election was stolen.
In the United States, free speech is often referenced in tandem with the First Amendment, which guarantees American citizens the right to freedom of religion, expression, assembly and petition by preventing Congress from restricting any one of these actions in public forums. But freedom of speech is more than just a law as defined under the First Amendment; it is a core tenet of liberal philosophy that promotes the right of the individual to access the public square of discourse. It is an important part of individual freedom and is invaluable in ensuring that the groups that hold the most power, be they governments or trillion-dollar industries, cannot control the discourse of their constituents.
A handful of private tech companies hold an ever-growing monopoly over the internet and social media, which have become the new public square in our society; the increasing normalization of political censorship by these organizations is a problem. Its true that the millions of people who share this public square should not and cannot be forced to listen to the ramblings of any yahoo standing on a soapbox, but to take away someones voice for the crime of sharing information that may be politically inconvenient, expressing views that may be controversial, or for simply being wrong only encourages more authoritarian behavior.
One might argue that if someone doesnt like the speech policies of one social media network or another, they can simply move to another or create their own. This is true, and that is exactly what happened earlier this year. Parler, a social network founded for the purpose of promoting freedom of expression, briefly became the most downloaded app in the country, with users jumping ship from Twitter and Facebook citing claims of censorship following Bidens presidential victory.
This was short-lived, though, as Parler was quickly booted from the internet after being removed from Apple and Googles app stores, as well as from Amazon Web Services, for a lack of moderation regarding content promoting the violent riots at the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. In contrast, similar content was also spreading across significantly larger networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, for weeks leading up to the Electoral College vote, but they faced no such action. Parler is now back online since striking a new deal with the Russian-owned DDos-Guard, after having spent a week struggling to find a new host.
So yes, you can jump to other social networks or even form your own if you disagree with the speech policies set by the largest companies in the world. But if your network does not abide by the standards of content moderation set by those companies, it runs the risk of being shut down. This is not to say that it is unreasonable to make content encouraging violence against your guidelines. But so long as the content is not illegal, a platform should not be faced with a dogpile of tech giants for choosing to let its users speak their minds.
That said, the pressure to conform with certain speech policies and standards of moderation does not come from tech companies exclusively. During congressional antitrust hearings on the tech monopolies held by Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, some U.S. senators argued for social media companies to be even more aggressive in taking down posts. Threats of litigation can be leveraged against tech companies by the government, encouraging them to pursue policies that may be preferred by certain officials or agencies.
So, is there anything that can actually be done to combat political censorship by tech companies? Maybe. The largest legal protections that tech companies have are those provided under the Communications Decency Act Section 230:
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.
In a nutshell, this means that tech companies cannot be held liable for the actions of their users, i.e. you cannot sue Twitter for slander based on the statements made by Twitter user @FakeName37.
By and large, this is a good thing. A social media company that acts as a service provider should not be held responsible for the independent actions of its users. However, there is an argument to be made that companies such as Twitter, Facebook or Google by choosing to take responsibility for the speech of their users out of concern for things like disinformation in the cases of the New York Post or election fraud conspiracy theorists have now invalidated those protections. By deciding that certain kinds of political speech are not acceptable, they have effectively become publishers of content as opposed to simply service providers.
This is where the road starts to get a bit rocky. As I stated, it is very possible for the federal government to use threats of litigation as a way for tech companies to pursue policies it finds favorable. In early 2020, I wrote about one such case: the EARN IT Act, proposed legislation that would have threatened to remove Section 230 protections if tech companies did not sacrifice user data encryption and potentially even send all user messages to law enforcement agencies to be scanned for child sex abuse material. If Section 230 protections were to be revoked, this could still open a pathway to more authoritarian speech controls.
I stand by my opposition to the EARN IT Act for its intent to undermine end-to-end data encryption. However, with the increasingly apparent authoritarian censorship by tech companies (particularly in the past year), something may need to be done to preserve individuals freedom of political expression. Taking a good hard look at exactly who should be protected under Section 230 could be one solution, albeit a risky one.
According to the current interpretation of Section 230, companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook are protected from the threat of mass litigation by their users. But to allow tech companies to continue to abuse their monopolies over the public square of discourse unchecked is a serious mistake and one that needs to be addressed. If faced with no other option, rethinking Section 230 protections may just be a risk worth taking.
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Posted: at 12:40 am
Google's Pixel 4A phone.
Google on Thursday unveiled the next version of Android, the search giant's mobile operating system. The software, called Android 12, is a preview version or developer beta meant for app developers to test before it's released more widely.
The new version of Android focuses mostly on under-the-hood fixes, aimed at making people's phones run more smoothly. Some updates try to prevent apps from freezing, while others make it easier for apps to receive photos and videos. Google also redesigned notifications and tried to make them faster and more responsive.
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Google's new Android release comes as Apple has shaken the app developer world with new privacy policies for its iOS software. In December, Apple launched a feature called "nutrition labels" that tells people what personal data their apps are collecting, like financial information, contacts or browsing history. Another change by Apple, rolling out in the coming months, requires developers to ask people for permission to gather data and track them across apps and websites. The changes have irked other tech giants, including Facebook.
Google's user privacy features don't go as far. One update to Android 12 should "give users more transparency and control over how cookies can be used across sites," Dave Burke, vice president of engineering for Android, wrote in a blog post.
Now playing: Watch this: Our first look at Android 12
As the tech world has reacted to Apple's privacy updates, Google had considered a less "stringent" approach to giving users options about app tracking, according to a report earlier this month by Bloomberg.
"We're always looking for ways to work with developers to raise the bar on privacy while enabling a healthy, ad-supported app ecosystem," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. She didn't answer questions about how Android 12's privacy updates compare with Apple's.
Android is the dominant mobile operating system in the world, powering almost nine out of every 10 smartphones shipped globally. But Google's biggest challenge with new versions of Android is actually getting them onto people's phones, since wireless carriers and handset makers can slow the process.
Google hasn't released user figures for the previous version of the software, Android 11. But the last time Google updated its distribution numbers in May 2019, Android 9 had only been installed on 10.4% of Android phones. The three versions released before that were on 64.4 percent of Android phones.
Apple, by contrast, is quick to tout its adoption numbers. As of December,72% of Apple's iPhones and other iOS devices are on the most recent version of its operating system, iOS 14.
Read more: iOS 14.5 is coming soon. What we know about a release date and new features
One feature of Android 12 tries to ease the update problem by allowing the tech giant to update parts of Android through its Google Play Services system, instead of requiring a full operating system update that has to be approved by wireless or device partners.
Posted: at 12:40 am
Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.
Google on Thursday said it's restructuring its teams that focus on the development of artificial intelligence, a shake-up that follows months of turmoil after the departure of a prominent AI researcher at the company.
The new team, called the Responsible AI Research and Engineering Center of Expertise, will be led by Marian Croak, a vice president of engineering at the tech giant. Bloomberg earlier reported the news.
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The reorganization comes as Google faces blowback over the exit of Timnit Gebru, who co-led Google's Ethical AI group and is one of the few Black women in the field. In December, Gebru said she was fired over a research paper that calls out risks for bias in AI -- including in systems used by Google's search engine. Gebru also emailed a group of Google employees, criticizing the company's diversity and equity programs.
Gebru's departure has caused widespread outrage among Google's rank-and-file workforce and around the broader tech industry. Nearly 2,700 Googlers have signed an open letter in support of Gebru, and members of Gebru's former team at Google sent a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding she be reinstated.
"There's quite a lot of conflict right now within the field, and it can be polarizing at times," Croak said in a video and blog postannouncing the news. "And what I'd like to do is have people have the conversation in a more diplomatic way, perhaps, than we're having it now, so we can truly advance this field."
The news came as a surprise to some members of Google's AI teams. "This was not communicated with us at all, despite promises that it would be," Alex Hanna, a member of Google's Ethical AI team, wrote on Twitter.
A Google spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the company's blog post announcement.
Posted: at 12:38 am
While citizens were appropriately focused on vaccinations, rebuilding the economy and repairing the education system, the U.S. Senate was busy with the second impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump. Much has already been written about the political impact of this historic event and the future of the Republican Party post-Trump. But we cant help but pile on.
Sen. Mike Lee was among 43 colleagues who acquitted Trump, while Sen. Mitt Romney was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict. Will national and Utah Republicans punish Romney for his vote?
Pignanelli: The Liz Cheney vote tells you what Republicans really think. Chris Christie
Jenga is a popular game wherein players compete in removing wooden blocks from a tower until it ultimately collapses. Most of the animosity toward Romney was constructed by his antagonistic relationship with Trump. Like a Jenga tower, over time this will disintegrate.
Polls indicate a majority of Republicans support President Trump. But recent developments reveal GOP leaders are distancing from him. Congresswoman Cheney was overwhelmingly affirmed in a leadership position despite her impeachment vote. The nations most powerful Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, publicly excoriated Trump and held him responsible for the events of Jan. 6. McConnell sent a clear message that actions against Trump should not cease and gave Romney a pass.
Romney will likely confront a 2024 convention battle as he did in 2018. But over the next four years, he can demonstrate his conservative bona fides when pushing back against a Democratic administration.
The Jenga tower built on Trumps hostility to Romney is slowly losing blocks and will eventually fall.
Webb: The Utah Republican Party wisely issued a statement invoking Ronald Reagans big tent aspiration for the party. The statement seeks to avoid an intra-party fight by saying, disagreement is natural and healthy, and its OK for Republicans to showcase a diversity of thought.
So Romney wont be formally censured by the party, but a lot of Utah Republicans are disappointed in his continued antipathy toward Trump (except when he was a candidate for secretary of state). If Romney seeks reelection in 2024 he will almost certainly face a strong GOP opponent.
As Ive written previously, I have little sympathy for Trump, because he brought his problems on himself with his narcissism. But I feel bad for his followers, and I feel bad for the policy setbacks that are coming. The Biden administration is taking a hard lurch to the left, to the detriment of the country.
Romney, like most Democrats, will probably never understand Trumps appeal to average, working-class, patriotic Republicans who feel left behind. These are heartland Americans who resent coastal and big-city elites labeling them domestic terrorists and considering them systemically racist. They feel vulnerable to Big Tech canceling or censoring them. They fear losing jobs if they say something politically incorrect. They believe their conservative family values and moral principles are under attack. Identity and victimhood politics repel them. They really do cling to their guns and religion. And there are a lot more of these folks than the elitists recognize.
Will the Republican Party break into pro-Trump and establishment factions that are hostile to each other?
Pignanelli: Even a casual observer of the news would conclude a split within GOP ranks has existed since 2015. But many traditional Republicans remained quiet as Trumps success isolated their concerns. Trumpistas possess the advantage of an ideology attached to a charismatic individual, whereas mainstream Republicans have not coalesced around a nationally recognized leader as of yet. But the disadvantage for Trumpistas is their mentor will soon be distracted by legal and financial pressures. The two opposing forces will be pitted against each other in 2022. Eventually there will be several candidates who can appeal to the Trump base but also excite the conventional, while organizing a coalition to compete against Vice President Kamala Harris.
Webb: I dont see a problem for state and congressional races in Utah, but Republicans wont win another presidential election until Trump Republicans and establishment Republicans can unite on a candidate. That wont be easy.
Since Trump lost, neither the Biden administration or establishment Republicans have made any attempt to understand, or appeal to, heartland, working-class Republicans. In fact, the opposite is true. The Biden agenda of big government, higher taxes, social justice, environmental extremism, identity politics and cancel culture is their worst nightmare.
Establishment politicians live in an echo chamber where they watch network news, read The New York Times and The Washington Post, and receive positive feedback from Hollywood, big business and Big Tech. And they think thats America. Theres a whole side of America out there that cant relate to them and they cant relate to it.
How long will Trump continue to be a factor in U.S. politics?
Pignanelli: It is rare for a former president to have extraordinary influence on a political party. (Exceptions include Andrew Jackson, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt). History suggests that Trumps dedicated base will decrease over time. But many of our beloved traditions were smashed in the last several years, and this may be a victim. Regardless, presidential contenders will have a Trump strategy in 2024.
Webb: It really is up to Trump. No one knows what role he will play. I very much want the party to move beyond Trump. But the party must better understand his followers and bring them along.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser who served as a Democrat in the Utah state Legislature. Email: email@example.com.
Posted: at 12:38 am
On June 1, 2020, members of the private Bachelor-themed Facebook group, Brett's Bachelor Buds, started organizing. It had been a week since George Floyd was killed by police, emotions were running high, and people across the country were experiencing a heightened awareness of racial inequality.
The Facebook group, which formed in March 2020, was meant to act as a fun, positive space for 7,200 fans and counting to connect over their shared love of all things Bachelor, the reality show that's been running for 18 years and has inspired other popular series including The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise. But after a member named Chloe posted to express her frustration about the lack of diversity within the franchise and a desire to take action, the fandom decided it was time to get serious. Over a series of Facebook Messenger conversations and Zoom calls, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign was created.
"[Chloe] likes to say it was a nap thought. She was just in the middle of her day about to take a nap and sent this message. And quickly a bunch of us jumped on it and were like, 'We feel the same way as you, let's do something,'" Sam Halfmann, a member of the campaign, explained during a Zoom call. "We decided to put together a petition that really grew into a campaign, and we decided to do this big launch on the day of The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons - Ever! [which was] airing on June 8."
When the campaign which now consists of 14 Bachelor fans across the country who came together through their mutual Facebook group went public, they launched a website and social media accounts to voice their concerns over the franchise, and outlined a series of 13 anti-racist standards for ABC and Warner Bros. to meet and uphold. The asks, which are detailed in a change.org petition that more than 163,000 fans have signed, range from casting a Black lead in Season 25 of The Bachelor (what ended up becoming Matt James' season) to issuing "a public statement apologizing for enabling systemic racism within the franchise" through years of problematic comments from producers, poorly vetted contestants, and predominantly white casts. The petition also calls on the franchise to provide "a clear plan for demonstrable anti-racism efforts moving forward," and encourages supporters to pledge to commit to anti-racism as well.
On June 12, 2020, four days after the campaign launched, the franchise made history by announcing Matt James would be its first Black male lead. The franchise also posted a statement to Instagram saying they "condemn racism, bullying, and hate in all of its forms and have introduced new community guidelines for interacting" on their posts. ABC has not said if the campaign's actions helped promote these changes, but the Bachelor Diversity Campaign feels they may have helped apply some additional pressure.
"[People working on the show] haven't been in touch with us. However, some out there have argued that they are aware, just given some of their actions," Halfmann, a 27-year-old senior marketing manager in Wichita, Kansas, said.
"We like to think they're very aware of us," BDC member Rachel Everley explained. "I do think that especially the second [statement] was in response to the push of our campaign."
The decision to cast Matt James and the statement condemning racism were both seen as signs of hope in the Bachelor community, but the campaign was all too aware given the past two decades that if left unchecked, the popular franchise likely wouldn't prioritize diversity or fight to facilitate positive, more inclusive change in the form of giving equal air time to people of color and carefully vetting contestants to ensure those who've promoted prejudice are not cast. So they felt compelled to take action.
"When we first got that announcement that Matt was going to be cast as the first Black bachelor, you have that moment of 'We really hope that this isn't just bread crumbs or lip service that there's going to be some concrete signs that things are changing," BDC member Ariana Arestegui, a 29-year-old law firm administrator in Orange County, California, explained. "I think that's why it was so important that we created those multiple points. It wasn't just about casting a Black bachelor. It's about making sure that there's more equity in screen time, and that theres better quality in terms of storylines and conversations" related to important topics including race, equality, mental health, family history, and more.
Since its launch, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign live tweets the two-hour episode each Monday night not only to celebrate the funny, viral-worthy moments and praise whatever is good, but to call out the bad and reflect on certain aspects of production that need improvement, for instance, focusing less on the petty drama that's become a Bachelor staple and giving contestants of color that air time to showcase their experiences and share personal storylines. The Bachelor Data Analyst Twitter account has been tracking contestant's screen time, and the data from the first six episodes of Matt's season shows just how much focus drama among white contestants is given.
Why was Heathers van roll-up longer than the Carnival date?! #TheBachelor
Bachelor Diversity Campaign (@bachdiversity) February 9, 2021
Were frustrated. Once again mean-spirited drama is drawing attention away from BIPOC storylines. Raise your hand if youd rather hear Matt + Michelle discuss the achievement/opportunity gap than watch Victoria, Anna, & MJ delight in a malicious rumor. #TheBachelor
Bachelor Diversity Campaign (@bachdiversity) February 2, 2021
"It's kind of like 'Avengers Assemble.' Like, OK are we here? Can we do it now? Let's get this done," Arestegui said when asked how the group decides what to post. "We just need to continue holding them accountable so that this isn't a passing phase for them."
As many members of Bachelor Nation know, the franchises history with diversity, systemic racism, and poorly vetted contestants is thornier than the many roses its contestants hand out.
The Bachelor Diversity Campaign detailed a series of particularly abhorrent examples of times the franchise has exhibited or defended problematic behavior in a Twitter thread on Monday, Feb. 16.
The thread highlights racist tweets and brownface social media posts from contestants; heartbreaking accounts from Black women who were cast in seasons with little to no diversity; a former Black casting producer speaking out about how the show returned to casting predominantly white contestants after Lindsay's season. And then there were the comments made throughout the years from Bachelor creator and producer Mike Fleiss, as well as longtime host and executive producer Chris Harrison:
In 2011, when asked if fans would ever seen a non-white bachelor or bachelorette, Fleiss said, "We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, its just that for whatever reason, they dont come forward. I wish they would."
In 2018, he noted that ratings were down for Lindsays season, the first to feature a Black bachelorette, insinuating that her race may have been to blame. "I found it incredibly disturbing in a Trumpish kind of way," Fleiss told the New York Times. "How else are you going to explain the fact that she's down in the ratings, when black or white she was an unbelievable bachelorette? It revealed something about our fans."
Harrison has made his fair share of jaw-droppingly bad comments on race, too. In a 2015 interview with NPR, after some prickly reflections on Juan Pablo Galavis, who was cast as the franchise's first Latino lead, Harrison bluntly spoke about the "tricky subject" of diversity related to the show.
"...As soon as you say, 'race,' 'racism,' 'ethnicity,' 'minorities,' all of a sudden, everybody is waiting for you to say something politically incorrect and for it to be a scandal," Harrison said. "And when you're a white guy, a middle-aged white guy talking about diversity, you're already five steps behind. You're already in trouble. Because there's nothing you can say that's going to be good, that's going to go well in that regard."
Harrison went on to explain his belief that the success of the show mattered more than trying to take a stand on social issues or help pave the way for inclusivity on-screen.
"This is a situation that so many people of color, women of color, have been in before. You're trying to express yourself, a very valid sentiment, and you're continuously getting backlash, interjected, and made to seem as though your opinion is not as valid or as grounded as that other person's."
"...This is what worries me about speaking about it, honestly: television is a business, like anything else. And what we have to do, we can't just say, 'We're changing the world. We're going to do whatever it takes to change the world and make a stand on any social issue,'" Harrison continued. "I don't care, whatever take race out of it. Save the whales. We're going to make the entire show about saving the whale or the spotted owl. Well, that's great. But what happens when our show is off in six months, and you're not watching it anymore, and now hundreds if not thousands of people are out of a job?"
Earlier this year, when Harrison was asked if he felt the franchise was quick enough to diversify, he said, "There is this amazing culture of change going on. But there's also this culture of, how can I ruin that? How can I say, well, you're not woke enough? What is woke enough for you?"
Most recently, Harrison came under fire for excusing and defending historical racism in an interview with former show alum and the first Black bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay. Harrison spoke on allegations made against Rachael Kirkconnell, a contestant on Matt James' currently airing season of The Bachelor, who sparked outrage online after photos from 2018 surfaced showing her at an "Old South" plantation-themed college party with a group of women. The 24-year-old contestant has also been accused of bullying and promoting harmful political conspiracy theories in past weeks.
Before Kirkconnell publicly addressed the allegations, Harrison tried and epically failed to do some damage control. While repeatedly arguing that Kirkconnell should be given grace since the photos in question were taken several years ago, the 49-year-old host, who noted he's "not the woke police" said, "Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018, or is it not a good look in 2021? Because there's a big difference. Where is this lens we're holding up and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018?"
"It's not a good look ever, because she's celebrating the Old South," Lindsay replied. "If I went to that party what would I represent?"
Arestegui, a BDC member and woman of color, said she had a "very visceral" response when listening to Harrison's interview with Lindsay. "When Chris would try to speak over her or interject or make a fallacy in reasoning and judgment I would just be like, you can't outdo the doer," she said.
"Rachel was so gracious and graceful throughout that entire thing more than I think she should have been.... But within my own personal experiences as I was putting myself in her shoes, I was like, 'This is a situation that so many people of color, women of color, have been in before,'" Arestegui continued. "You're trying to express yourself, a very valid sentiment, and you're continuously getting backlash, interjected, and made to seem as though your opinion is not as valid or as grounded as that other person's. I really felt for Rachel, and I think she did a great job there. It is never okay to attempt to gaslight someone."
In a move I'm not sure any member of Bachelor Nation actually saw coming based on the total and complete lack of accountability exhibited from the franchise in the past, Harrison announced on Saturday that he would be stepping down from his hosting duties "for a period of time."
Since Harrison and Kirkconnell's Instagram apologies, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign has been extremely vocal on social media, in shining a spotlight on the franchise's problematic history, calling for Harrison's permanent departure, and supporting people of color on the show.
Dozens of alumni from the franchise (along with the women from Season 25, which is still in the process of airing) also released joint statements supporting Lindsay and denouncing any defense of racism. And fans created a petition calling for Chris Harrisons permanent removal from the franchise, which has already received more than 40,000 signatures. Many also abstained from live tweeting the last episode in support of viewers of color.
Hi #TheBachelor friends
I wont be tweeting tonight in support of BIPOC viewers whove had an especially exhausting week. While Chris Harrison stepping aside is a step, his ability to unlearn those troubling beliefs cant be unlearned overnight. Therefore, he should be replaced.
Brett S. Vergara (@BrettSVergara) February 16, 2021
"We have seen both statements from Chris Harrison in the past week, including the news of his stepping aside for a period of time. This is the first step towards accountability. However, we arent looking for a short break, but for substantive change and an action plan with demonstrable antiracism efforts," BDC member Everley said.
"The pushback within Bachelor Nation on the call to remove Chris Harrison is also revealing another reason he should go because without it, it emboldens others to defend racism as well. Anything less than his removal is quiet acceptance."
Since Lindsay was cast as the Bachelorette lead in 2017, she's served as one of the main voices advocating for the show to embrace people of color, but shes not alone anymore, and she along with alum including Tyler Cameron, Kaitlyn Bristowe, Nick Viall, and Ben Higgins have signed and shared the Bachelor Diversity Campaign's petition. And in a recent Reddit AMA, when asked what changes she would implement if she became an executive producer of the franchise Lindsay said, "I would basically consult with the Bachelor Diversity Campaign creators. They seem to really get it and be on top of the change the fans want to see in the franchise."
"I was hoping when I came on to be a trailblazer for that and to increase diversity in the audience that watches it. But in the last three years, there really haven't been changes made," Lindsay said in a 2020 interview with GMA. "I want producers of color I'd like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race that aren't just getting their first-time experience for the first time on national TV. I need the acknowledgment of that. Not putting a band-aid over the situation and just saying, 'Here, we're going to put this here. Are you happy now?'"
Lindsay also penned a powerful blog post to further flesh out her thoughts on the franchises role in perpetuating systemic racism, in which she explains, "I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don't have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television. The sad reality is that people of color become placeholders as the token person of color to add some flavor to the second half of the season."
It would be incredibly easy to look at all of these transgressions with disgust and abandon the franchise all together, and no doubt many fans have considered doing just that. But the harder task the task that the Bachelor Diversity Campaign has embarked upon is sticking with the show and relentlessly challenging all those who play a hand in casting, creating, and airing the series to facilitate impactful, lasting change.
"We don't want to [boycott] because we like this show... We want it to be better than it is."
"There has been a lot of talk among Bachelor fans about boycotting the show in the past, like 'We're done, we're out, we're boycotting.' Not that that thought didn't initially [cross our minds] in planning, but we don't want to go that way because we like this show. The thing that brought us together is that we like this crazy show and we don't want it to go away," Everley said. "We want it to be better than it is. And so, rather than just boycotting or only specifying a Black bachelor for Season 25, we wanted to outline the things that us as fans are looking for, and how this show can be better very explicitly."
If you've been watching the past three seasons especially, you know firsthand that groundbreaking change is possible in the franchise. James being cast as the first Black bachelor made history, but in 2020 Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams also served as back to back Latina women leads. Adams' season featured a number of raw, eye-opening conversations about surviving addiction, suicide, eating disorders, and mental health. And, of course, Adams and contestant Ivan Hall had a crucial and candid discussion about race, Black Lives Matter protests, prison reform, and police brutality, which was aired on prime time television.
This season of The Bachelorette was a season of firsts. We watched as TWO Bachelorettes led the show with decisiveness, empathy, and grace. We saw the first (and second) female Latinx leads and the first Black Latinx lead. 1/8 #TheBachelorette pic.twitter.com/jitIlXFmnw
Bachelor Diversity Campaign (@bachdiversity) December 23, 2020
"I was watching by myself that evening, and I think my words in the group chat were literally, 'Did they just say George Floyd?'" Halfmann said. "I was like, 'You guys, this is a real moment. This is completely topical. It's exactly what's going on. And this is a conversation that we never see on The Bachelor. We were seeing a real moment. And that's what we want to see, the real moments.'"
James' season also featured Abigail Heringer, the show's first deaf contestant, whose story BDC member Rachel Everley connected with on a personal level. "Seeing Abigail is really special to me because I'm hard of hearing," the 39-year-old elementary education worker from Connecticut said. "I don't have a cochlear implant, but I do have to have captions. I do read people's lips. That's how I communicate. So just to see someone who's like me a little bit someone who has this type of diversity It's just such a humbling moment really."
Over the past two decades, the Bachelor franchise has given viewers the chance to watch grand love stories unfold from the comfort of their living rooms. The series are more than capable of offering lighthearted escapism and a silver lining to even the dreariest Mondays. But as society continues to reckon with racism and inherent social and political inequities, fans are demanding those whose actions have harmed contestants and fans of the show, such as Harrison, cut ties. And they want more substance, relatability, and on-screen representation, and less manufactured drama, shallow and incomplete storylines, and limos of contestants so similar in appearance you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart halfway through your first glass of wine.
"It's one thing to cast a diverse cast, but it's not really doing anything if you're spending all of your time on petty drama from white women. That's not what we want to see. We want to hear people's stories and get to know them," Halfmann said.
"We want to see real life. We don't want to see contrived drama. We don't want to see fights. We want to see real conversations that are happening as people try to choose their partner. That's why we watch the show," Everley agreed.
Instead of focusing the majority of an episode on a woman whos going home, fans would rather see more of what goes into the final love story. When it comes to romantic connections, conversations that may seem mundane for television are, in reality, what help two people develop a strong relationship. On Tayshia Adams' season, for example, fans were confused and outraged upon learning that Adams sent home contestant Ivan Hall after learning they shared different religious beliefs. Their conversation on religion wasn't aired, so fans were left to wonder and many expressed a desire for additional transparency.
"They're really upping the ante with these women and creating all of these stressors for them to try to create that drama, but they don't need that. They don't need those shticks and gimmicks. We want to see the man fall in love," Arestegui said. "Let's talk [about] filing taxes or something. Where are we going to settle down? How do you feel about Wisconsin? Are you a vegan? There's so many other things about people that make them unique that arise in regular normal relationships: Religion, socio-economic differences, education, different values, and different ways of growing up."
"We want to see real life. We don't want to see contrived drama. We don't want to see fights. We want to see real conversations that are happening as people try to choose their partner. That's why we watch the show."
While watching a heavily edited fairy tale unfold may seem like better TV to producers, what Bachelor Nation really craves from these reality shows is simply more reality: diverse contestants; unedited, topical, sometimes heavy conversations; a team thats willing to own up to its many past mistakes and not only vow to do better, but show theyre capable of following through on their empty promises.
The sheer premise of the show one person attempting to find a life partner in a matter of weeks while simultaneously dating 20+ people, all of whom live together breaks nearly every dating tradition in the book. So why is the show so reluctant to push boundaries as small and sensible as casting a diverse group of contestants that not only includes more people of color, but people with disabilities, people with different religious beliefs, and contestants that represent different age groups and body types?
The accelerated, unconventional process these contestants use to find love is already pretty forward-thinking, and the decision to properly address and incorporate diversity in the form of better casting and hiring an omnipresent part of looking for love in the real world would only make the show more powerful and realistic. Fleeing from that opportunity for inclusion and trying to avoid it, as Harrison and others involved with the show have done multiple times, is both limiting and harmful to viewers and contestants. At the end of the day The Bachelor is a reality TV show, but it's reality TV that people hold close to their hearts, and it has the potential to grow alongside society and positively address deeper issues.
Now that fans are holding the show accountable, the franchise has reached a crossroads. It either continues to downplay its role in perpetuating systemic racism, brings back Harrison, and fails to show actionable efforts to change, or it starts really listening to what its fans want to see and starts living up to what it can actually be.
Mashable reached out to ABC and Warner Bros. for comment.
Posted: at 12:37 am
Recent focus on the deranged views voiced by U.S. Rep Marjorie Taylor (Marge) Greene has elevated QAnon to a household word.
Attempting to understand precisely what QAnon is, however, represents a slippery and elusive task, because this shadowy, nut-case umbrella term has no universally accepted description.
The best nuts and bolts description, in a grueling Calbuzz internets investigation, comes from the global crowd source scholars of Wikipedia, who write in part:
QAnon[a](/kjunn/) is a disproven and discreditedfar-rightconspiracy theoryalleging that a secretcabalofSatan-worshipping,cannibalisticpedophilesis running a global childsex-traffickingring and plotted against former U.S. presidentDonald Trumpwhile he was in office.According to U.S. prosecutors, QAnon is commonly called acult.
the conspiracy theory began with an October 2017 post on the anonymousimageboard4chanby Q (or QAnon), who was presumably an American individual;it is now more likely that Q has become a group of people acting under the same name.
Astylometricanalysis of Q posts claims to have uncovered that at least two people wrote as Q in different periods.Q claimed to be a high-level government official withQ clearance, who has access to classified information involving theTrump administrationand its opponents in the United States.
Fair enough, but thats a lot to process, and yet barely scratches the surface in terms of the wakadoodle ideas that QAnon adherents believe to be true. Consider just one of those ideas known as, um, Frazzledrip as outlined by Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times:
The lurid fantasy of Frazzledrip refers to an imaginary video said to show Hillary Clinton and her former aide, Huma Abedin, assaulting and disfiguring a young girl and drinking her blood. It holds that several cops saw the video and Clinton had them killed.
Because: of course.
Digging deeper. Here are several other descriptions that a variety of credible writers have employed in bids to wresle the nature, scope and meaning of QAnon to the ground:
At its heart, QAnon is a wide-ranging, completely unfounded theory that says that President Trump is waging a secret war against elite Satan-worshipping paedophiles in government, business and the media: QAnon: What is it and where did it come from? BBC News Mike Wendling
Named after Q, who posts anonymously on the online bulletin board 4chan, QAnon alleges that President Donald Trump and military officials are working to expose a deep state pedophile ring with links to Hollywood, the media and the Democratic Party: QAnon: The alternative religion thats coming to your church (religionnews.com) Katelyn Beaty
baseless belief an anonymous person called Q was revealing secrets about a child trafficking ring orchestrated by Democrats and global elites: (Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, QAnon conspiracy promoter, rose with support from key Republicans, The Washington Post Michael Kranish, Reis Thebault and Sephanie McCrummen
a wild conspiracy theory that alleges a massive global pedophile cabal: ( Tucker Carlson stands up for QAnon supporters, The Washington Post Aaron Blake
QAnon is the umbrella term for a set of internet conspiracy theories that allege, falsely, that the world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles: What Is QAnon, the Viral Pro-Trump Conspiracy Theory? - The New York Times (nytimes.com) Kevin Roose
Key, but mostly unspoken, point: QAnon is not an organization, like the Republican Party, the John Birch Society, Students for Democratic Society, the Catholic Church or the Black Panther Party, or others which the MSM has described at various times as extremist.
Rather, its an uncertain, inconstant and shifting collection of conspiracy theories: One doesnt belong to QAnon. Theres no sign-up sheet, list of members, leadership structure or regular meetings.
Saying someone associates with QAnon is like saying someone associates with pantheism: the belief thatrealityis identical withdivinity,or thatall-thingscompose an all-encompassing,immanentgod..
Delusion goes mainstream. To be sure, there always have been tinfoil-hat and survivalist weirdos who believe Elvis is still alive, the Moon landing was faked or that the Holocaust never happened. But inevitably they were fringe people, widely regarded as delusional, out-of-the-mainstream wackos to whom nobody paid much attention.
Now, however, significant portions of the Republican Party have defended and spread ideas common among QAnon theorists like the belief that the Clintons and George Soros killed JFK or that the Sandy Hill School shootings were a false flag operation by anti-Second Amendment haters.
Or as Marge Greene who holds a seat in the United States House of Representatives (and let that sink in) famously retweeted, that Jewish space lasers set off the wildfires in California. Because: of course
In short, delusion has gone mainstream, the culmination of the Death of Truth trend in politics and culture of which we are among the first to write more than a decade ago.
Of course, the Delusionist in Chief, Donald Trump, played a pivotal role in spreading ideas like this and others, including denial of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election or that Hydroxychloroquine prevents Coronavirus.
When the Commander in Chief, the Leader of the Free World the elected president of the United States holds, spreads and spins an entire alternative reality, the effect is like aggressive cancer consuming the country.
The bottom line change. For decades, crazy thinking, virulent racism, corrosive xenophobia and crushing misogynism all were part of the American political landscape. But all the flying monkeys, biting insects and snarling monsters were tamped down and stuffed into a box by mainstream politics, media and social decency.
Then along came Donald Trump, who not only unlocked forever our American Pandoras Box, but who endorsed, cheered and promoted virtually every one of the most dangerous and disgusting creatures and ideas that common sense had marginalized.
Now Qanon has become the unified theory of all the false and slanderous conspiracy stories. Which at least for the moment is being debunked, repudiated and de-legitimatized under the Biden-Harris administration.
That crazy uncle has been sent back to the basement. Whether or not he stays there is an open question.
Posted: at 12:36 am
A New Artificial Intelligence Makes Mistakeson PurposeWill Knight | WiredIt took about50 years for computers to eviscerate humansin the venerable game of chess. A standard smartphone can now play the kind of moves that make a grandmasters head spin. But oneartificial intelligence program is taking a few steps backward, to appreciate how average humans playblunders and all.
Bitcoins Price Rises to $50,000 as Mainstream Institutions Hop OnTimothy B. Lee | Ars TechnicaBitcoins price is now far above the previous peak of $19,500 reached in December 2017. Bitcoins value has risen by almost 70 percent since the start of 2021. No single factor seems to be driving the cryptocurrencys rise. Instead, the price is rising as more and more mainstream organizations are deciding to treat it as an ordinary investment asset.
Million-Year-Old Mammoth Teeth Contain Oldest DNA Ever FoundJeanne Timmons | GizmodoAn international team of scientists has sequenced DNA from mammoth teeth that is at least a million years old, if not older. Thisresearch, published today in Nature, not only provides exciting new insight into mammoth evolutionary history, it reveals an entirely unknown lineage of ancient mammoth.
Scientists Accidentally Discover Strange Creatures Under a Half Mile of IceMatt Simon | WirediIts like, bloody hell! Smith says. Its just one big boulder in the middle of a relatively flat seafloor. Its not as if the seafloor is littered with these things. Just his luck to drill in the only wrong place. Wrong place for collecting seafloor muck, but the absolute right place for a one-in-a-million shot at finding life in an environment that scientists didnt reckon could support much of it.
Highest-Resolution Images of DNA Reveal Its Surprisingly JigglyGeorge Dvorsky | GizmodoScientists have captured the highest-resolution images ever taken of DNA, revealing previously unseen twisting and squirming behaviors. These hidden movements were revealed by computer simulations fed with the highest-resolution images ever taken of a single molecule of DNA. The new study is exposing previously unseen behaviors in the self-replicating molecule, and this research could eventually lead to the development of powerful new genetic therapies.
The First Battery-Powered Tanker Is Coming to TokyoMaria Gallucci | IEEE SpectrumThe Japanese tanker is Corvuss first fully-electric coastal freighter project; the company hopes the e5 will be the first of hundreds more just like it. We see it [as] a beachhead for the coastal shipping market globally, Puchalski said. There are many other coastal freighter types that are similar in size and energy demand. The number of battery-powered ships has ballooned from virtually zero a decade ago to hundreds worldwide.
Report: NASAs Only Realistic Path for Humans on Mars Is Nuclear PropulsionEric Berger | Ars TechnicaConducted at the request of NASA, a broad-based committee of experts assessed the viability of two means of propulsionnuclear thermal and nuclear electricfor a human mission launching to Mars in 2039. One of the primary takeaways of the report is that if we want to send humans to Mars, and we want to do so repeatedly and in a sustainable way, nuclear space propulsion is on the path, said [JPLs] Bobby Braun.
NASAs Perseverance Rover Successfully Lands on MarsJoey Roulette | The VergePerseverance hit Mars atmosphere on time at 3:48PM ET at speeds of about 12,100 miles per hour,diving toward the surface in an infamously challenging sequence engineers call the seven minutes of terror. With an 11-minute comms delay between Mars and Earth, the spacecraft had to carry out its seven-minute plunge at all by itself with a wickedly complex set of pre-programmed instructions.
A First-of-Its-Kind Geoengineering Experiment Is About to Take Its First StepJames Temple | MIT Technology ReviewWhen I visited Frank Keutsch in the fall of 2019, he walked me down to the lab, where the tube, wrapped in gray insulation, ran the length of a bench in the back corner. By filling it with the right combination of gases, at particular temperatures and pressures, Keutsch and his colleagues had simulated the conditions some 20 kilometers above Earths surface. In testing how various chemicals react in this rarefied air, the team hoped to conduct a crude test of a controversial scheme known as solar geoengineering.
Image Credit: Garcia / Unsplash
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Posted: at 12:36 am
Like taxes and death, nutrition is something we cant escape. Eating should be easy. Yet its also massively confusing, prone to misinformation, and utterly personal.
Take competitive eaters who regularly chow down on thousands of calories without gaining weight. Compare them to people who pack on pounds just looking at a French fry. Or compare people who can tolerate any food to those who are sensitive or allergic to entire food groups. Or people who thrive on a high-fat diet like keto, to unfortunate souls whowith the same dietneed to stay close to the bathroom.
You get the idea: no one diet fits all. Yet nutrition science has long relied on averages to make dietary recommendations. From the 80s fat is bad paradigm to todays sugar is horrible trend, its always been easy to vilify one food component, without digging into how each of us interact with the foodstuff we eat.
Now, thanks to a massive new project led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nutrition science is about to get the precision treatment. With a price tag of $156 million, the five-year-long study will examine how 10,000 Americans process food. The program, Nutrition for Precision Health, isnt pulling punches. Each person will be given a highly controlled diet to reduce variability. Theyll then be thoroughly monitored for everything from blood sugar levels to their genes, proteins, and gut microbiome composition. Using the massive dataset, the program can then develop AI-based algorithms to predict individual responses to foods and diets.
If successful, we may soon have a scientifically-proven way of optimizing our diet and health based on our genes and gut microbes. While the culinary astronauts among us may cringe at the idea, for those with metabolic disorders or food intolerances, the algorithms are a powerful tool to aid nutritionists in prescribing diets to those who seek help.
Nutrition science has had a bit of a fuzzy reputation. But its not through any fault of its own. The field faces two major unenviable challenges: one, the results are the average of entire study populations, and two, humans hate sticking to a strict diet for long enough to get consistent results. Ever tried a 14-day diet? Now imagine doing it for five years.
As Paul Coates, vice president of the American Society of Nutrition puts it, were all free-range eaters, which mucks up the resulting data.
Thats not to say classic nutrition science hasnt had major wins. Take the Framingham Heart Study, which launched in 1948 with over 5,000 people to better understand heart and blood vessel health. The study was a first population-level triumph in linking diet to cardiovascular diseases, which remains one of the top killers today.
But to NIHs director Dr. Francis Collins, its high time to bring nutrition science into the 21st century. In May 2020, the agency released a 10-year plan to dig into the nitty-gritty of nutrition, tackling the what, when, why, and how to eat to optimize health and reduce chronic health plagues such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Its looking to be a wild ride. For example, the ambitious effort doesnt just focus on the gut. Thanks to new research showing intimate connection between the gut and the braindubbed the gut-brain connectionthe plan also embraces neuroscience as a component. Given the link between longevity and diet, itll also study the role of nutrition across our lifespans, or even how to use food as medicine.
And underlying all these fundamental questions? Personalization: how each of us responds to the food we eat.
The new program will be housed under the NIHs flagship health project, All of Us. The research program aims to recruit one million people under its banner to build a Google Earth-style database of biology, health, lifestyle, and disease. The key is individuality: forget average treatments, personalization is the future.
To Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDKK), now is the perfect time to explore precision nutrition. In a presentation last September, he laid out why. Were beginning to understand how the microbiome influences health. We can rapidly perform multi-omics studiesthat is, look at a persons whole system of genes, proteins, and metabolism. AI and machine learning make it easier to analyze these massive datasets. Finally, digital health tech, offered through smartphones or smartwatches, makes everyday health tracking simple and affordable.
The project is planned in three stages. Roughly 10,000 volunteers from All of Us will wear various monitorssimilar to Fitbitsto track their usual diets, physical activity, and blood sugar levels, creating a baseline. In the second stage, a subset of participants will regularly visit a clinic. There, theyll be given a controlled, specific meal, and be monitored for a series of biomarkers such as how their blood sugar levels change.
Another subset of volunteers will be given three different types of diets, one following another with a washout perioda breakin between. The prepared study foods will be eaten at home, so the participants can go about their daily lives.
Finally, up to 1,000 volunteers will stay at a clinic for three two-week-long holidays. Here, their three meals will be strictly controlled, and outside food not allowed. While seemingly harsh, going from free range to controlled is the gold standard for nutrition science, because it weeds out other variables.
While on the diet, all three groups will undergo a series of clinical tests, ranging from genetics and microbiome composition to blood sugar levels, metabolism, and urine. Psychology and behavior measures will also be assessed. Further on the docket are socioeconomic factors, such as zip code.
With these comprehensive measures, we are removing a lot of that noise that we had for years, created by the factors that we were not measuring before, said Dr. Jos Ordovs, a nutrition scientist at Tufts University.
As the study gathers data, on the back end, software engineers will begin building an infrastructure for storing, organizing, and searching the datasets. This library of data is then passed on to AI scientists to create models and algorithms that predict a persons individual response to a diet. Finally, another five-year period will validate those models in clinical trials.
Its not the first time a study has linked precision nutrition with AI. In 2015, an Israeli study of 800 people monitored their blood sugar levels and microbiome to parse out how individuals respond to different types of sugar intake. Using machine learning, the study built a software program to predict diets best suited for someone who is diabetic or hoping to lose weight.
But Nutrition for Precision Health is larger and far more sweeping than anything previously attempted. For now, the program is still at the planning stage, with a full launch expected in early 2023.
To Rodgers, the study isnt just about generating a wealth of data to fuel discovery science for years to come. The resulting tools, methods, and paradigm shift will have the potential to truly transform the field of nutrition science, he said.
Image Credit: bestbrk/Shutterstock.com
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Posted: at 12:36 am
The affecting, uneven Nomadland, set early in 2011 in the wake of the Great Recession but equally pertinent today, is a road movie of a very special sort. Fern, played by Frances McDormand, lost her husband a year after the closure of a gypsum factory in Empire, Nevada, that put nearly everybody out of work. Even the ZIP code of the town has been erased. With no desire to stay on, she packs up a camper and heads out across the high and low deserts, working seasonal jobs to get by.
She joins a migratory band of fellow travelers, a few of whom she befriends and reconnects with along the way. Some of these nomads, mostly older adults, choose to live like this because they believe they have no better way to survive. Others just like the peace and freedom.
Written and directed by Chlo Zhao, the film is based on Jessica Bruders 2017 nonfiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, and includes several of the books real-life vagabonds, such as the ailing, valiant Swankie and the irrepressible Linda May,playing variants of their actual selves. Fern is not based on any one individual, but her singularity, like a character from a Steinbeck novel, makes her seem both her own person and symbolic of a larger reality.
Nothing terribly dramatic happens in Nomadland, and at times this can make the film seem wispy and digressive a piece of arty anomie with a semidocumentary overlay. The challenges of maintaining lifes basic necessities are downplayed. Fern faces few dangers: no hazardous encounters, no thefts, no violence.This seems more an idealization of her situation than a reality.Her biggest crisis comes when her camper breaks down and she cadges money for its repair from her sister Dolly (Melissa Smith), who liveswith her husband and childrenoutside Denverin conventional, and, in the films view, boring, middle-class comfort.
Fern reluctantly pays her a visit, and it is in this scene, more than halfway into the movie, that a bit of Ferns family backstory unfolds. She left home as soon as she could, married hastily, and moved, according to Dolly, to the middle of nowhere. Not altogether convincingly, Dolly commends the pioneer spirit of the big sister she looked up to, whose departure years ago left a big hole in her life.
It is also in this Denver setting that the film tips its ideological hand, just as it did earlier when the real-life nomad guru, Bob Wells, regales his followers with talk of the tyranny of the dollar. Fern chastises Dollys husband, George (Warren Keith), a real estate broker, for encouraging people to invest their whole life savings, go into debt, just to buy a house they cant afford. The implication is clear: Footloose Fern incarnates the spirit that made America great, a spirit that has been squelched in a mercenary economy gone bust. Im not homeless, she tells people. Im houseless.
Romanticizing Fern in this way glosses over her emotional complexity. Despite the films erratic attempt to pigeonhole her, its obvious that Ferns wanderlust owes far more to psychological need than ideological persuasion. She quietly affirms several times a lasting love for her late husband, but the affirmation seemingly lacks conviction. When a fellow nomad, beautifully played by David Strathairn, attempts to get close to her, she barely registers the overture. As was also true of the vengeful mother McDormand played in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the role of Fern gives McDormand license to indulge an opaqueness that is often more gnomic than expressive. Perhaps she and Zhao felt that being more demonstrative would shatter the films wayward poetic mood.
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They neednt have worried because, despite the movies manipulations, that mood often comes through anyway. Its there in the scenes where Fern is simply walking alone in a deserted RV park, or floating unclothed and unobserved in a mountain stream, or just watching a herd of bison from the window of her camper. In these moments, and others like them, Nomadland is mysteriously moving.
Peter Rainer is the Monitors film critic. Nomadland is available via theaters and streaming service Hulu on Feb. 19.
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