The vast majority of dog and cat owners will say their pets enrich their lives in countless ways and bring immeasurable levels of extra happiness, but researchers from Michigan State University suggest that most pet owners may just be telling themselves what they want to hear. Their new study found that despite owners claiming pets improve their lives, researchers did not see a reliable association between pet ownership and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic:
The pandemic was a stressful time for everyone, to put it lightly. Even the most laid-back among us found themselves overwhelmed by the lockdowns and social distancing guidelines that dominated 2020. So, the research team at MSU theorized that the pandemic represented an ideal time to study just how much comfort and happiness pets really provide to their families.
In all, the study authors assessed a total of 767 people on three separate occasions in May 2020. The research team opted to adopt a mixed-method approach that allowed them to simultaneously assess several indicators of well-being, all while also asking participants to reflect on the role of pets from their point of view in an open-ended manner. Generally, pet owners predictably reported their pets made them happy. More specifically, they said their pets helped them feel more positive emotions and provided affection and companionship.
On the other hand, the participants also articulated the dark side of pet ownership, such as worries related to their pet's well-being or having their pets interfere with working remotely.
[...] "People say that pets make them happy, but when we actually measure happiness, that doesn't appear to be the case," says William Chopik, an associate professor in MSU's Department of Psychology and co-author of the study, in a university release. "People see friends as lonely or wanting companionship, and they recommend getting a pet. But it's unlikely that it'll be as transformative as people think."
As a lifetime pet owner who's had at least a dozen dogs over the years, I take umbrage with the study's findings. My dogs are always thrilled to see me when I arrive home from a long, tiring day of work, and taking them for a walk or just being in their presence immediately lifts my spirits. And I remember the calming effect petting a cat had for my ex-wife when she was pregnant and having a bad day.
Chopik, W. J., Oh, J., Weidmann, R., et al. (2023). The Perks of Pet Ownership? The Effects of Pet Ownership on Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672231203417
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
Nintendo snagged the most nominations of any publisher with 15, followed by Sony (13), Microsoft (10, including Bethesda and Activision Blizzard's nods) and Epic Games (nine). There are 31 awards in total, including Best Adaptation. The nominees in that category this year are Castlevania: Nocturne, Gran Turismo, The Last of Us, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Twisted Metal.
A bunch of deserving indies picked up nominations as well, including Cocoon, Dave the Diver, Dredge, Tchia, Viewfinder, Pizza Tower and Hello Kitty Island Adventure. Meanwhile, continuing a redemption arc after its disastrous debut three years ago, Cyberpunk 2077 2.0 and its Phantom Liberty expansion racked up four nominations in total.
Highly invasive malware targeting software developers is once again circulating in Trojanized code libraries, with the latest ones downloaded thousands of times in the last eight months, researchers said Wednesday.
Since January, eight separate developer tools have contained hidden payloads with various nefarious capabilities, security firm Checkmarx reported. The most recent one was released last month under the name "pyobfgood." Like the seven packages that preceded it, pyobfgood posed as a legitimate obfuscation tool that developers could use to deter reverse engineering and tampering with their code. Once executed, it installed a payload, giving the attacker almost complete control of the developer's machine. [...]
All eight tools used the string "pyobf" as the first five characters in an attempt to mimic genuine obfuscator tools such as pyobf2 and pyobfuscator. The other seven packages were:
While Checkmarx focused primarily on pyobfgood, the company provided a release timeline for all eight of them.
Pyobfgood installed bot functionality that worked with a Discord server identified with the string:
There was no indication of anything amiss on the infected computer. Behind the scenes, however, the malicious payload was not only intruding into some of the developer's most private moments, but silently mocking the developer in source code comments at the same time. Checkmarx explained:
The Discord bot includes a specific command to control the computer's camera. It achieves this by discreetly downloading a zip file from a remote server, extracting its contents, and running an application called WebCamImageSave.exe. This allows the bot to secretly capture a photo using the webcam. The resulting image is then sent back to the Discord channel, without leaving any evidence of its presence after deleting the downloaded files.
Among these malicious functions, the bot's malicious humor emerges through messages that ridicule the imminent destruction of the compromised machine. "Your computer is going to start burning, good luck. :)" and "Your computer is going to die now, good luck getting it back :)"
But hey, at least there is a smiley at the end of these messages.
These messages not only highlight the malicious intent but also the audacity of the attackers.
The Verge reports that Google will remove Gmail's Basic HTML view effective January 2024.
Though the vast majority of people use the Standard view on their PCs without question, the HTML version of Gmail has its perks. The stripped-down Gmail experience loads quickly, and users can access it even on older machines or with much slower connections.
The change appears to have been announced around September 19th in a Google support article, and users of the Basic HTML view were shown warnings that it will be discontinued, after which time they will be switched to the current standard view.
The removal of Gmail's basic HTML view is the latest in a long line of products, features, services, and more to be admitted to the Google graveyard. The company has also recently buried its Pixel Pass phone upgrade program, Google Currents, and Nest Secure.
Amazon has been working on an in-house replacement for its Android-based Fire OS, codenamed "Vega" and built for easier app development, according to reporting from Janko Roettgers at Lowpass.
While an Android base provides a relatively familiar entry for developers that already have Android apps, rebuilding the AOSP project—meant to support a wealth of different devices and carrying years of technical debt—seemingly became frustrating enough for Amazon to push toward an in-house solution.
For the first time, researchers have demonstrated that a large portion of cryptographic keys used to protect data in computer-to-server SSH traffic are vulnerable to complete compromise when naturally occurring computational errors occur while the connection is being established.
Underscoring the importance of their discovery, the researchers used their findings to calculate the private portion of almost 200 unique SSH keys they observed in public Internet scans taken over the past seven years. The researchers suspect keys used in IPsec connections could suffer the same fate. SSH is the cryptographic protocol used in secure shell connections that allows computers to remotely access servers, usually in security-sensitive enterprise environments. IPsec is a protocol used by virtual private networks that route traffic through an encrypted tunnel.
The vulnerability occurs when there are errors during the signature generation that takes place when a client and server are establishing a connection. It affects only keys using the RSA cryptographic algorithm, which the researchers found in roughly a third of the SSH signatures they examined. That translates to roughly 1 billion signatures out of the 3.2 billion signatures examined. Of the roughly 1 billion RSA signatures, about one in a million exposed the private key of the host.
While the percentage is infinitesimally small, the finding is nonetheless surprising for several reasons—most notably because most SSH software in use—including OpenSSH—has deployed a countermeasure for decades that checks for signature faults before sending a signature over the Internet. Another reason for the surprise is that until now, researchers believed that signature faults exposed only RSA keys used in the TLS—or Transport Layer Security—protocol encrypting Web and email connections. They believed SSH traffic was immune from such attacks because passive attackers—meaning adversaries simply observing traffic as it goes by—couldn't see some of the necessary information when the errors happened.
[...] As noted earlier, researchers had no evidence that passive attacks exploiting signature errors were feasible when traffic was transmitted through non-TLS protocols such as SSH or IPsec. The reason is that the cryptographic hash of the signature from the latter protocols includes a shared secret generated by the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. The security provided by the exchange meant that passively observing the faulty signature didn't expose enough key material to recover the private key using a GCD attack.
The attack described in the paper published this month clears the hurdle of missing key material exposed in faulty SSH signatures by harnessing an advanced cryptanalytic technique involving the same mathematics found in lattice-based cryptography. The technique was first described in 2009, but the paper demonstrated only that it was theoretically possible to recover a key using incomplete information in a faulty signature. This month's paper implements the technique in a real-world attack that uses a naturally occurring corrupted SSH signature to recover the underlying RSA key that generated it.
[...] The researchers traced the keys they compromised to devices that used custom, closed-source SSH implementations that didn't implement the countermeasures found in OpenSSH and other widely used open source code libraries. The devices came from four manufacturers: Cisco, Zyxel, Hillstone Networks, and Mocana. Both Cisco and Zyxel responded to the researchers' notification of the test results before the completion of the study.
[...] The important thing is that a single flip of a bit—in which a 0 residing in a memory chip register turns to 1 or vice versa—is all that's required to trigger an error that exposes a secret RSA key. Consequently, it's crucial that the countermeasures that detect and suppress such errors work with near-100 percent accuracy. Ryan also said that secret keys in post-quantum algorithms may be similarly vulnerable to exposure caused by computational errors.
"Our research reiterates the importance of defense in depth in cryptographic implementations and illustrates the need for protocol designs that are more robust against computational errors, like is exhibited by TLS 1.3 or certain configurations of IPSec," Ryan wrote. It "illustrates the importance of protecting against computational faults for any cryptographic implementation going forward, even in usage scenarios where an attacker is unlikely to have physical access."
An international team of linguists and geneticists led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig has achieved a significant breakthrough in our understanding of the origins of Indo-European, a family of languages spoken by nearly half of the world's population.
For over two hundred years, the origin of the Indo-European languages has been disputed. Two main theories have recently dominated this debate: the 'Steppe' hypothesis, which proposes an origin in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe around 6000 years ago, and the 'Anatolian' or 'farming' hypothesis, suggesting an older origin tied to early agriculture around 9000 years ago. Previous phylogenetic analyses of Indo-European languages have come to conflicting conclusions about the age of the family, due to the combined effects of inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the datasets they used and limitations in the way that phylogenetic methods analyzed ancient languages.
[...] The team used recently developed ancestry-enabled Bayesian phylogenetic analysis to test whether ancient written languages, such as Classical Latin and Vedic Sanskrit, were the direct ancestors of modern Romance and Indic languages, respectively. Russell Gray, Head of the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution and senior author of the study, emphasized the care they had taken to ensure that their inferences were robust. "Our chronology is robust across a wide range of alternative phylogenetic models and sensitivity analyses", he stated. These analyses estimate the Indo-European family to be approximately 8100 years old, with five main branches already split off by around 7000 years ago.
These results are not entirely consistent with either the Steppe or the farming hypotheses. The first author of the study, Paul Heggarty, observed that "Recent ancient DNA data suggest that the Anatolian branch of Indo-European did not emerge from the Steppe, but from further south, in or near the northern arc of the Fertile Crescent — as the earliest source of the Indo-European family. Our language family tree topology, and our lineage split dates, point to other early branches that may also have spread directly from there, not through the Steppe."
The authors of the study therefore proposed a new hybrid hypothesis for the origin of the Indo-European languages, with an ultimate homeland south of the Caucasus and a subsequent branch northwards onto the Steppe, as a secondary homeland for some branches of Indo-European entering Europe with the later Yamnaya and Corded Ware-associated expansions. "Ancient DNA and language phylogenetics thus combine to suggest that the resolution to the 200-year-old Indo-European enigma lies in a hybrid of the farming and Steppe hypotheses", remarked Gray.
Wolfgang Haak, a Group Leader in the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, summarizes the implications of the new study by stating, "Aside from a refined time estimate for the overall language tree, the tree topology and branching order are most critical for the alignment with key archaeological events and shifting ancestry patterns seen in the ancient human genome data. This is a huge step forward from the mutually exclusive, previous scenarios, towards a more plausible model that integrates archaeological, anthropological and genetic findings."
Paul Heggarty, Cormac Anderson, Matthew Scarborough, et al., Language trees with sampled ancestors support a hybrid model for the origin of Indo-European languages, Science, 28 July 2023 DOI: 10.1126/science.abg0818
Meeting Announcement: The next meeting of the SoylentNews governance committee is scheduled for Tomorrow, Wednesday, November 15th, 2023 at 21:00 UTC (4pm Eastern) in #governance on SoylentNews IRC. Logs of the meeting will be available afterwards for review, and minutes will be published when complete.
The agenda for the upcoming meeting will also be published when available. Minutes and agenda, and other governance committee information are to be found on the SoylentNews Wiki at: https://wiki.staging.soylentnews.org/wiki/Governance
Highlights expected in tomorrow's meeting are discussion of Draft 8 of the bylaws, and a statement from janrinok.
The community is welcome to observe and participate, and is invited to the meeting.
This week doctors announced they had completed the first successful transplant of a partial face and an entire eye. In May at NYU Langone Health in New York City, the surgery was performed on a 46-year-old man who had suffered severe electrical burns to his face, left eye and left arm. He does not yet have vision in the transplanted eye and may never regain it there, but early evidence suggests the eye itself is healthy and may be capable of transmitting neurological signals to the brain.
The feat opens up the possibility of restoring the appearance—and maybe even sight—of people who have been disfigured or blinded by injuries. Researchers caution there are many technical hurdles before such a procedure can effectively treat vision loss, however.
"I think it's an important proof of principle," says Jeffrey Goldberg, a professor and chair of ophthalmology at the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University, who was not involved in the surgery but has been part of a team working toward whole-eye transplants in humans. "I think it points to the opportunity and importance that we really stand on the verge of being able to [achieve] eye transplants and vision restoration for blind patients more broadly. "But he cautions that the main obstacle is achieving regeneration of the optic nerve, which carries visual signals from the retina to the brain; this step has not yet been successfully demonstrated in humans.
Face and cornea transplants have been performed before, yet to the NYU Langone team's knowledge, this is the first time a whole eye has been transplanted successfully (with or without a face). The first partial face transplant was performed in 2005 in France. As of 2021, nearly 50 face transplants had been conducted worldwide. In 1969 Texas physician Conard Moore claimed to have attempted the first whole-eye transplant in a human, but it was not successful. Amid criticism, Moore later retracted his claim, saying he had only transplanted the eye's outer portion—the sclera and cornea. Although a subsequent analysis suggested he may, in fact, have transplanted the whole eye, it did not develop a blood supply.
The recent transplant was performed by Eduardo Rodriguez, director of the face transplant program and chair of the department of plastic surgery at NYU Langone Health, and his colleagues. The recipient was Arkansas-based military veteran Aaron James, whose face touched a live wire while he was working as an electrical lineman in Oklahoma in June 2021. The accident left him with severe burns to the left side of his face, including his left eye, nose and lips, and extensive damage to his left arm, his dominant limb. James was transferred to a hospital in Texas, where he received multiple reconstructive surgeries. His left eye was removed because it was causing pain, and his left arm was amputated above the elbow and fitted with a prosthetic hook. He was in a medical coma for six weeks and he says he doesn't remember anything from the accident and afterward until he woke up at the hospital.
Two months after the accident, Rodriguez and his colleagues at NYU Langone Health became aware of James's case. Over the next year they discussed the possibility of a face transplant with Aaron James and his wife, Meagan. The decision was made to transplant the donor's eye as well, because even if James never regained sight, the organ would help restore his face's appearance. Like any transplant, there was a chance his immune system would reject the eye—but he would already need to take immunosuppressant medication for the face transplant.
[...] James has since made a good recovery. He is able to talk, and although he does not have much ability to move his lips and facial muscles yet, Rodriguez says he will recover a lot of that ability with time. He can eat food on his own again now, and his wife Meagan says he has a big appetite. James was even able to attend his daughter's high school graduation, and he says keeping his sense of humor has been critical to his recovery.
Rodriguez and the rest of the surgical team are very pleased with James's recovery. "Everything that we're seeing so far, no one expected," he says. "Even if we don't get sight, I will tell you at this point in time, everything seems incredibly exciting."
The "Man in the Moon" is older than we thought.
Scientists have proposed resetting the lunar clock after reassessing impact craters on the surface of the moon. This means that some features of the moon, like the formation that makes up the face of the "Man in the Moon" formation could be 200 million years older than previously theorized.
The new dating system could help to better tell the story of the evolution of the lunar surface and has important implications for our understanding of the violent and turbulent early history of the solar system during which bodies like Earth and the moon were subject to intense bombardment by space rocks.
The new evaluation involved reexamining two separate ways of dating the lunar surface: Counting the number of craters caused by the impact of space rocks; and the assessment of moon rocks collected by the Apollo missions. These two dating methods have traditionally given different results, especially for the ages of the heavily cratered and mountainous highlands of the moon.
[...] "Looking at the signs of these impacts on the moon shows what Earth would be like without the geological churning of plate tectonics which took place here on Earth," Werner said. "What we have done is to show that large portions of the lunar crust are around 200 million years older than had been thought."
The team behind the findings explains that the new dating system doesn't change estimates of the moon's age as a whole, which remains around 4.53 billion years. Instead, it changes the age of all areas of the moon's surface but not in a uniform way; the new dating system suggests older areas are subject to the greatest shift in age due to the new system.
[...] "Such a heavy bombardment period must have affected the origin and early evolution of life on Earth and potentially other planets such as Mars," Bouvier said in a statement. "Bringing back rock samples from Jezero Crater on Mars will be the next giant leap forward to search for signs of ancient life on another planet in the solar system, and when."
The team's research was presented at the Goldschmidt Conference held in Lyon, France, between July 9 and July 14. It has been accepted for publication in the Planetary Science Journal.
West Virginia University economists, whose research shows flu deaths increase when a city becomes home to a new professional sports team, say their data should make even the biggest fans reconsider support for taxpayer-funded stadium subsidies.
According to their paper in Sports Economic Review, U.S. cities that gained pro teams between 1962 and 2016 saw increased influenza mortality of up to 24% after the teams came to town. The researchers analyzed cities with new teams in the four major North American professional leagues: Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League.
[...] "Most, if not all, of the sports venues in the cities we studied received direct and/or indirect public financing," Humphreys said. "Since 2000, U.S. state and local governments have committed nearly $20 billion to new stadiums — roughly a billion dollars per year. These subsidies usually come in the form of governments essentially cutting team owners a check, funded by issuing bonds, to build their stadiums. The fact that teams basically extort cities to get these subsidies by threatening to move elsewhere makes this of even more interest to economists.
"Our finding, that people in cities with sports teams are likely to be sicker than they would be without the team, has the potential to shift how we think about hosting professional sporting events. We hope taxpayers will be less likely to subsidize professional sports facilities if they realize those teams are making them sicker, burdening health care systems and harming businesses' bottom lines as workers use sick days."
When NFL teams moved to cities that never had pro sports teams before, those cities saw an average increase in flu deaths of 17%, or about 13 additional deaths a year. Becoming home to an NBA team increased a city's flu mortality by 4.7%, and MLB — whose games generally occur outside flu season — had the smallest impact, driving three additional deaths each year.
The largest increase in a city's weekly flu mortality came from the NHL. An NHL team moving into a city caused a 24.6% increase in flu deaths per 100,000 residents, Ruseski said, a total increase of about 20 flu deaths a year in each city.
"As for why hockey is so deadly, we believe it is both the timing of the season and location of the teams," she said. "The NHL season overlaps almost perfectly with the flu season and NHL teams are more likely to be in colder cities."
Cardazzi et al., Do sporting events amplify airborne virus transmission? Causal evidence from US professional team sports, Sports Economic Rev., 2023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.serev.2023.100013
I have recently read many discussions in places like r/youtube where users who block ads are described as immature freeloaders or selfish for expecting others to watch ads so they don't have to. I believe most users understand that it's expensive to host a video streaming service, and that YouTube has to pay their bills somehow. However, at this point in time, there are very valid reasons for users to continue blocking YouTube ads. YouTube also has better solutions to increase revenue without resorting to their recent aggressive tactics.
Many ads contain NSFW content or obvious scams
YouTube clearly has the ability to detect content that violates the platform's rules, and videos are regularly demonetized for doing so. Because YouTube can moderate user-submitted content in this manner, they also have the ability to moderate sponsor-submitted content. Users have a reasonable expectation to not be subjected to NSFW content without their consent. I have read many reports of ads with cartoon characters engaging in sexual acts, and that is inappropriate. YouTube also does not have the ability to detect who is actually watching a video at a specific time, meaning that they could be exposing children to this content.
YouTube should not be sending content to users that is actively attempting to harm them, and scam ads are doing exactly that. Although many of these scams are obvious, which should make it easier to detect them using YouTube's moderation tools, there are still people who will be fooled. YouTube is not very responsive to user complaints about abusive ads, probably because they don't want to risk losing money from sponsors. One of the main reasons users block ads on other sites is because they are often deceptive or contain malicious payloads. At this time, that is also the best recourse users have to protect themselves from harmful ads on YouTube.
YouTube's argument that banning ad blockers is done to help content creators is disingenuous
YouTube's ban on ad blockers has been accompanied by increasing the frequency, duration, and intrusiveness of ads before and during videos. They have also raised the price of YouTube Premium, though the increased ads may be an effort to drive users to pay the higher subscription prices. YouTube justifies this as being necessary to support content creators. However, YouTube's policies toward content creators is exploitative, and YouTube is not comparable to other streaming services.
Streaming platforms like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime negotiate terms with their content providers, including the price of the content. YouTube does not negotiate with its content creators in the same way, and it has a history of changing the terms of its monetization programs in ways that adversely affect smaller channels. YouTube can also demonetize videos at their sole discretion.
I am not suggesting that each content creator should get to negotiate their terms individually with YouTube. That's impractical. The problem is that YouTube has a de facto monopoly, meaning that content creators don't have viable alternatives to monetize their content on other platforms. Historically, YouTube had few ads and actually lost money, while potential competitors lost users because they had more advertising. Because YouTube has been successful in driving its competitors out of business through its anticompetitive behavior, content creators no longer have viable alternatives. There are a number of other video hosting sites, but they serve specific niches, have far fewer viewers, and hosting content on those services will generally be even less profitable for content creators. As such, YouTube can dictate terms to content producers with little recourse, which is not the case for other streaming services.
YouTube uses targeted advertising at the expense of user privacy
Don't forget, YouTube is owned by Google, which aggregates large amounts of data to serve people targeted advertisements. Google does not respect the privacy of users, and the ads you see on YouTube are generally targeted to you like any other ad Google displays. This is not necessary, and YouTube advertising might be more effective if it was contextual, primarily based on the content of the videos alongside which the ads are displayed. YouTube has chosen not to respect the privacy of its users. The collection and aggregation of data used to target ads is actively harmful to users and is all the more reason to continue blocking ads.
YouTube has better solutions to many of its problems
I believe that users are intelligent and understand that it is expensive for YouTube to host and distribute content, and that those bills need to be paid somehow. Instead of taking an adversarial position, YouTube should take users' concerns seriously and improve the quality of the ads they display. That means vetting ads before they're displayed to avoid NSFW content and obvious scams from being displayed to users. Many of the changes to YouTube's monetization system have been panned by content creators, and YouTube could show good faith by rolling back these changes and making it easier for small channels to monetize their content. YouTube could eliminate targeted advertising, automatically classify the content of videos, and only display contextual advertising. They could also offer intermediate options between being bombarded with massive amounts of ads and paying $13.99/month to remove all ads. For example, a cheaper plan could be offered to eliminate all mid-roll advertising, allowing some ads to remain while being much less obvious to users.
Arthur T Knackerbracket has processed the following story:
Since their inception in the 1940s, the so-called forever chemicals have woven themselves into the fabric of our modern world. But recently, they've been appearing in alarming news headlines about their damaging effects on our health.
[...] The strength of their carbon-fluorine bonds is also what makes them resist breakdown by natural processes. Their longevity, often measured in centuries, has earned them the moniker of "legacy compounds."
Their presence has been detected in worrying concentrations in drinking water, soil, air and even in Arctic ice. Recent scientific investigations have unveiled a concerning connection between PFAS exposure and damage to health, both in humans and animals.
The adverse health effects can be traced to their persistence within the human body. Unlike many substances that are metabolized and eliminated over time, PFAS accumulate in bodily tissues and fluids without breaking down.
This accumulation creates a perpetual, self-sustaining cycle: PFAS contamination permeates rivers, soil and the food chain. These chemicals find their way into the bodies of humans and animals, where they continue to accumulate over time.
The mounting evidence of PFAS-related health risks has triggered global concern. Organizations such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants have set their sights on imposing stricter regulations on PFAS use within the European Union.
There is still a lot we don't know about the long-term health consequences of PFAS exposure, but the increasing global concern is indisputable.
In the UK and Ireland, PFAS contamination infiltrates everyday consumer products and industrial processes. In 2019, the UK Environment Agency's screening consistently identified PFAS in surface water samples, with PFOA and PFOS found at 96% of the sites they surveyed.
The presence of heightened PFAS concentrations signifies that none of England's rivers meet the "good chemical" status criteria established by the Water Framework Directive. The Chief Scientist's Group report identified military and civilian airfields, landfills and wastewater treatment facilities as the likely sources of PFAS contamination.
A pressing issue in Europe and the UK is the absence of standardized regulations regarding these forever chemicals. Only two of the most prevalent PFAS variants, PFOA and PFOS, are currently monitored in the UK.
[...] The intricacies associated with PFAS mean we need a holistic approach involving research to discover new chemical compounds that do not harm the environment and human health.
While the solution is complex, it is undoubtedly achievable. We need stringent regulations, more research and a global effort to eliminate PFAS. The pay off is worth it—a safer and healthier future for both our planet and its inhabitants.
In recent years, research showed that many professionals consider their work to be socially useless. Various explanations have been proposed for the phenomenon. The much-discussed "bullshit jobs theory" by the American anthropologist David Graeber, for example, states that some jobs are objectively useless and that this occurs more frequently in certain occupations than others.
Other researchers suggested that the reason people felt their jobs were useless was solely because they were routine and lacked autonomy or good management rather than anything intrinsic to their work. However, this is only one part of the story, as a recent study by sociologist Simon Walo of the University of Zurich shows. It is the first to give quantitative support to the relevance of the occupations.
[...] "The original evidence presented by Graeber was mainly qualitative, which made it difficult to assess the magnitude of the problem," says Walo. "This study extends previous analyses by drawing on a rich, under-utilised dataset and provides new evidence. This paper is therefore the first to find quantitative evidence supporting the argument that the occupation can be decisive for the perceived pointlessness." Walo also found that the share of workers who consider their jobs socially useless is higher in the private sector than in the non-profit or the public sector.
However, Walo's study also confirms other factors that influence employees' perceptions of their own work, including, e.g., alienation, unfavorable working conditions and social interaction. "Employees' assessment of whether their work is perceived as socially useless is a very complex issue that needs to be approached from different angles," the author therefore concludes. "It depends on various factors that do not necessarily have anything to do with the actual usefulness of work as claimed by Graeber. For example, people may also view their work as socially useless because unfavorable working conditions make it seem pointless."
Simon Walo: 'Bullshit' After All? Why People Consider Their Jobs Socially Useless. Work, Employment and Society. 21 July 2023. DOI:10.1177/09500170231175771
People who buy a Fire TV from Amazon are probably looking for a cheap and simple way to get an affordable 4K smart TV. When Amazon announced its first self-branded TVs in September 2021, it touted them as being a "great value." But owners of the devices will soon be paying for some of those savings in the form of more prominently displayed advertisements.
[...] Some of the changes targeting advertisers, like connecting display placement ads with specific in-stream video ads, seem harmless enough. Others could jeopardize the TV-watching experience for owners.
For example, Amazon is preparing to make Alexa with generative AI more useful for finding content on Fire TVs. This could help Alexa, which has struggled alongside other tech giants' voice assistants to generate significant revenue. Amazon gets money every time someone interacts with digital content through Alexa.
However, the company is double-dipping on this idea by also tying ads to generative AI on Fire TVs. When users ask Alexa to help them find media with queries such as "play the show with the guy who plays the lawyer in Breaking Bad," they will see ads that are relevant to the search.
[...] Maines told StreamTV Insider that advertisers had been asking for a way to advertise against Fire TV searches. "It just makes sense to expand our existing sponsor tile offering to show advertisements on the search screen with no extra effort or cost for the advertiser," she said.
[...] Amazon Fire TV users will also start seeing banner ads on the device's home screen for things that have nothing to do with entertainment or media. This ad space was previously reserved for advertising media and entertainment, making the ads feel more relevant, at least. Amazon opening the ad space to more types of advertisers is similar to a move Google TV made early this year.
The company seems to be aware of how dominating these types of advertisements can be. Maines emphasized to StreamTV Insider how the native ads are "right at the top of the Fire TV's home screen" and take "up half the screen."
[...] The banner ads will occupy the first slot in the rotating hero area, which Amazon believes is the first thing Fire TV users see. These users may have purchased a Fire TV primarily for streaming content from ad-free subscriptions, but Maines described how Fire TVs can still manage to force ads on these users.
[...] The changes mirror similar moves from others in the TV maker industry.
Vizio has been shifting its business toward advertising for the past few years. Its Q2 2023 earnings report showed its ad business growing 28 percent compared to the same period in 2022, versus a 15 percent increase for the device business. The device business was still larger that quarter ($252.1 million compared to $142.3 million), but it's clear that the company is eyeing advertising as the way forward.
[...] TV giant LG is also moving that way, CEO William Cho announced in July. In a press release that month, LG said it "intends to transform its TV business portfolio into a 'media and entertainment service provider' by expanding content, services, and advertisement in products."
And then there's Telly—the upcoming TV that has a second screen geared toward showing advertisements, including if the TV is turned off. The screen can also show other content, like sports scores or the weather, but its primary gimmick is that the device is given away for free. The cost, instead, comes from a wealth of mandatory data collection used for selling advertisements and products.
Amazon's Fire TV ad push is reflective of many parts of the TV industry. With TV makers today increasingly focused on selling ads on their devices, we'll continue seeing ads stuffed into TV operating systems, potentially at the cost of UI and hardware improvements. TV sellers, similar to the streaming companies whose apps those TVs serve up, have grown increasingly focused on pleasing advertisers and investors with continuous growth and recurring revenue sources. While those parties may smile, customers are left stomaching more ads on TVs that are collecting more data on them.