Monday, March 15, 2021

Scientists discover at least 50 genes are involved in determining human eye color, a much more complex process than previously thought

An international team of researchers led by King’s and Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam have identified 50 new genes for eye color in the largest genetic study of its kind to date. The study involved the genetic analysis of almost 195,000 people across Europe and Asia. These findings will help to improve the understanding of eye diseases such as pigmentary glaucoma and ocular albinism, where eye pigment levels play a role. In addition, the team found that eye color in Asians with different shades of brown is genetically similar to eye color in Europeans ranging from dark brown to light blue. This study builds on previous research in which scientists had identified a dozen genes linked to eye color, believing there to be many more. Previously, scientists thought that variation in eye color was controlled by one or two genes only, with brown eyes dominant over blue eyes. (Kings College London)


Amazon is at the “late-prototype stage” with its secret home robot Vesta

The Vesta has been under development for four years, and more than 800 people are working on the project. One design reportedly under consideration is a 10-13 inches wide device, equipped with multiple cameras, a screen, and a mic, that could be controlled via voice commands. Additional features may enable the Vesta to measure home temperature, carry objects, detect fires, and locate missing items. While Amazon could scrap the project, it highlights its ambition to make Alexa voice technology pervasive. The tech giant currently controls 70% of the U.S. smart speaker market. Initial sales projections are low, and Amazon could launch the Vesta as a “limited invite-only product” to ensure it doesn’t end up with unsold inventory. Due to production delays and concerns about the market appeal, some employees fear the project will be a failure, like the Fire Phone, which cost the e-commerce giant $170M. (The Verge)


Facebook, Google fight bill that would help U.S. news industry

Lobbyists for Facebook and Google threw their weight against new U.S. legislation that seeks to aid struggling news publishers by allowing them to negotiate collectively against the tech companies over revenue sharing and other deals. U.S. lawmakers introduced the plan in Congress on Wednesday to address a perceived power imbalance between news outlets and the tech giants. Critics accuse the companies of using content to drive traffic and ad revenue to their platforms without fairly compensating the publishers. The move adds to pressure on the tech firms, which are facing antitrust lawsuits and the threat of more regulation. The bills come not long after Facebook battled with Australia over how much it should pay news publishers for their content. During the fight, Facebook blacked out Australian news pages and only restored them once the government granted concessions. (Yahoo News)


Password sharing? Not on Netflix

Bingers, beware! With password-sharing as “pervasive” as it is — nearly 40% of people surveyed by LendingTree say they use a streaming login and password that’s not theirs, Netflix is testing a crackdown on freeloaders. The test is occurring in several countries and only on TV devices. As streaming competition increases, this could be a viable way for Netflix to boost revenue. (Variety)


Many Americans remain unemployed

Despite cases dropping and vaccine rates rising, many Americans are “still reeling from the consequences of the pandemic,” according to a new survey, which finds that 22% of Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic are still unemployed a year later. While both women and men had similar rates of losing jobs at 38%, more women remain out of work (22%) than men (21%). Younger generations were hit hardest: 36% of the 18 to 24 age group and 33% of the 25 to 34 age group surveyed say they received unemployment benefits for the first time. (GO Banking Rates)


The U.S. has designated Myanmar for temporary protected status (TPS) following the military coup in the country

On February 1st, military forces proclaimed a state of emergency and placed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her government under house arrest. As of March 11, Myanmar nationals who live in the U.S. will be relieved from deportation temporarily and offered work permits, if certain conditions are met. The Secretary of Homeland Security said in his announcement that all applicants will undergo background security and added that the U.S. border restrictions will remain in place. Suu Kyi won in a landslide in the November election, following her election in 2015. Around 70 people have been killed in the widespread protests across Myanmar opposing the military coup. Leaders of the Quad group, U.S., India, Australia, and Japan, released a joint statement in support of bringing back democracy in Myanmar. They said, “As longstanding supporters of Myanmar and its people, we emphasize the urgent need to restore democracy and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience.” (Department of Homeland Security)


Confidence is key to getting ahead

A lack of confidence is holding women back when it comes to financial literacy, according to a George Washington University study. It’s just one of the ways a shortfall in confidence is allegedly impeding women. A separate report points to the so-called ‘unentitled mindset’, whereby societal conditioning has left women feeling less deserving than men when it comes to pursuing these career stepping stones. For some, nurturing self-confidence comes from remembering that “you only need one job offer that you’re really passionate about, or one solution to the project you’re working on.” (Global Finance Literacy Excellence Center)


A High School teacher’s bathroom break allegedly streamed on classroom Zoom call

Oakland County, Michigan Sheriff’s deputies were investigating after a Walled Lake Central High School teacher may have accidentally webcast herself using the toilet at the end of a classroom Zoom call. They also are investigating reports that a student in the class recorded the incident and shared the video on the social media site Snapchat. A source familiar with the case said it appears the teacher didn’t realize her camera was on after the class ended. School officials were mum on the details of the incident, including the names of those involved, other than issuing a cryptic statement. “We want to make you aware that there was an incident on a Zoom class yesterday at Walled Lake Central High School where both staff and students made choices that compromised social integrity,” district spokeswoman wrote to parents in an email. “With the assistance and collaboration of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department, a thorough investigation of the situation is underway.” Both, the teacher and the student are out of school, including the Zoom classes, while the investigation proceeds. While no charges have been filed, Michigan law makes illegal “the surveillance of or distribution, dissemination, or transmission of recording, photograph, or visual image of individual having reasonable expectation of privacy.” The first violation of that law is a felony with a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. (Detroit Free Press)


Performance talks? It’s complicated

With more employees working from home and out of managers’ sight, firing workers or even raising concerns over poor performance has become extremely complicated. Several employers in a recent study said they realize workers are grappling with a number of pandemic stressors, from child care challenges to burnout, and termination would “cast them into a fragile job market” and likely cost them their medical insurance in the middle of a health crisis. The quandary is prompting leaders to take more time to understand personal circumstances, rethinking 2020 performance reviews and recalibrating how they measure success. (The Wall Street Journal)


What will economic recovery look like?

As vaccination efforts continue to ramp up and countries begin to ease pandemic-fueled restrictions, hopes for economic recovery are beginning to gather steam. One potential driver of a bounce-back? Massive consumer spending, to the tune of $3 trillion. Reduced spending during the COVID-19 crisis and government stimulus programs have led to a profound uptick in household savings, but will consumers readily part with their newfound cash? Much of this depends on whether people consider savings additional income, money to be spent in fairly short order, or wealth, a nest egg worth holding on to. (The Economist)


College tours take on a new look

For prospective college students, the pandemic has disrupted several time-honored traditions, including cross-country road trips to visit schools. With students still stuck at home, colleges are getting creative and bringing campus tours to them this year. Schools are going so far as to send out Oculus headsets for virtual reality tours, build campus mock-ups for students to explore on Minecraft and offer school-inspired cookbooks and Lego sets to help prospective students get a better sense of campus life. (The Wall Street Journal)


Tesla removed some drivers from its self-driving test for not paying attention

Tesla has expanded its “full self-driving” software to roughly 2,000 Tesla owners, but some drivers were revoked access for not paying close enough attention to the road, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk. “FSD Beta has now been expanded … we’ve also revoked beta where drivers did not pay sufficient attention to the road,” he said in a tweet. “No accidents to date.” It’s unclear how many drivers were revoked access from the beta software. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the number of drivers who lost access to the program. The beta version of “full self-driving” was released in October of last year. Tesla’s use of the term “full self-driving” has long been controversial, and criticized by autonomous vehicle experts. To most experts, full self-driving means a car in which a person could safely fall asleep behind the wheel. An attentive human driver isn’t needed. (CNN)


Bad guys will try to snag third stimulus check payments

The government and a cybersecurity expert are warning about fresh stimulus payment scams. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that combats financial crimes, listed some of the most common Economic Impact Payment (EIP) fraud in a recent advisory. The stimulus payments are the third and largest to date of the Coronavirus relief packages over the last 12 months. Methods include:

  • Fraudulent checks: Fraudsters send fraudulent checks with instructions to call a number or verify information online. Then the bad guys ask for personal or banking information under the guise that the information is needed to receive or speed up their EIP. The information is then used to commit crimes such as identity theft and the unauthorized access of bank accounts.
  • Theft of payment: these thefts can include stealing an EIP from the U.S. mail or requesting a payment for an ineligible person or seeking another person’s payment without the payee’s knowledge.
  • Inappropriate seizure of payments: A private company that controls a person’s finances seizes a person’s EIP and does not return the seized payments.
  • Phishing: fraudsters engage in phishing, seemingly authentic communications from banks and other trusted entities, using emails, letters, phone calls, and text messages containing keywords such as “COVID-19,” and “Stimulus.” The goal is to obtain sensitive personal and financial account information such as account numbers and passwords.

(Financial Crimes Enforcement Network)


Monday Climbs Out Of The Weekend Pit With:

  • Brutus Day
  • Buzzards Day
  • Everything You Think is Wrong Day
  • Fill Our Staplers Day
  • Ides of March
  • International Day of Action Against Canadian Seal Slaughter
  • Kansas Day
  • Napping Day (Monday after daylight savings times)
  • Pears Helene Day
  • Shoe The World Day
  • True Confessions Day
  • VO Day
  • Well-Elderly or Wellderly Day (3rd Monday)
  • World Consumer Rights Day