Action-packed ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ trailer shows off some combat

Action-packed ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ trailer shows off some combat

The appearance of Christmas decorations usually means shifting consumer viewing habits from summer action blockbusters to feel-gooderies like A Charlie Brown Christmas. Luckily, the drop of a new trailer for Alita: Battle Angel, reminds us that the holidays can equally share time between gift-giving and ass-kicking. Unlike the trailer that dropped in July which focused more on Alita finding herself, this one shows a lot more action and sword-swinging. We see Alita fight in a more advanced body, sliding around on a concrete luge track and slicing up bad guys.

Alita: Battle Angel is a live-action adaptation of the manga and anime Battle Angel Alita. It’s the brainchild of James Cameron, and is being directed by Robert Rodriguez. Cameron had been talking about the film adaptation of Alita for almost a decade at this point, but handed over the reigns to Rodriguez so he could make four new Avatar sequels. Meanwhile, cyberpunk author Pat Cadigan is handling the novelization of the film, as well as a prequel book titled Alita: Battle Angel – Iron City.

The movie stars Rose Salazar as Alita, a junked cyborg who is found by Doctor Ido, played by Christoph Waltz. Like many Japanese storylines, Alita is suffering from Amnesia, and is on a journey to try and remember her past.

Alita: Battle Angel will land in theaters on December 21st.

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Visualizing ‘unfurling’ microtubule growth

Visualizing ‘unfurling’ microtubule growth

Living cells depend absolutely on tubulin, a protein that forms hollow tube-like polymers, called microtubules, that form scaffolding for moving materials inside the cell. Tubulin-based microtubule scaffolding allows cells to move, keeps things in place or moves them around. When cells divide, microtubule fibers pull the chromosomes apart into new cells. Cells with defects in tubulin polymerization die.

Microtubule fibers are hollow rods made of much smaller tubulin subunits that spontaneously assemble at one end of the rod, but exactly how they do this inside the crowded environment of living cells has been a mystery. Now researchers at UC Davis have uncovered the mechanism that puts these blocks in place, illustrated in a new animation.

“It’s going to transform how people think about microtubule polymerization,” said Jawdat Al-Bassam, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences. A paper describing the work appears Nov. 13 in the journal eLife.

The work describes snapshots of a set of domains called TOGs, or Tumor Overexpressed Genes, caught in the act of driving tubulin polymerization. As the name suggests, TOGs are abundant in rapidly-dividing cancer cells. They show a similar structure in organisms from yeast to people.

Working in yeast, project scientist Stanley Nithianantham, Al-Bassam and colleagues showed how a protein called Alp14, with four TOG domains, speeds up tubulin polymerization into microtubules by carrying four tubulin units to the correct end of a microtubule and neatly unloads them in the right order to build out the end.

Alp14 represents a group of well-preserved proteins that are essential for cellular homeostasis and division of cells found from a yeast to human cell. It consists of an assembly linked flexible linker with two TOG1 and two TOG2 domains. Add four tubulin units (two per TOG domain) and it forms a circle with the TOGs facing each other and tubulins on the outside.

When the TOG/tubulin circles reach the growing end of a microtubule, TOG1 docks its tubulin with the growing end, destabilizing the circle so that it unfurls, placing four tubulins in order on the end. The name was chosen because the process is like unfurling a folded sail on boat in the wind.

“It’s a complete surprise that it’s such an ordered, concerted process,” Al-Bassam said.

As tubulins units are added to the microtubule strand, they straighten out, driving further disassociation of tubulins from TOGs. The process explains how multiple TOGs speed up tubulin assembly for the first time.

The researchers are following this work with studies of mutant proteins of Alp14 designed with predicted defects in this process to test this suggested mechanism using imaging approaches of dynamic tubulin assembly in and outside living cells. The researchers plan to follow up with further studies of the process, including using cryoelectron microscopy that allows them to visualize single protein molecules in their natural state.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5c__msJnR4

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Synthetic DNA-delivered antibodies protect against Ebola in preclinical studies

Synthetic DNA-delivered antibodies protect against Ebola in preclinical studies

Scientists at The Wistar Institute and collaborators have successfully engineered novel DNA-encoded monoclonal antibodies (DMAbs) targeting Zaire Ebolavirus that were effective in preclinical models. Study results, published online in Cell Reports, showed that DMAbs were expressed over a wide window of time and offered complete and long-term protection against lethal virus challenges. DMAbs may also provide a novel powerful platform for rapid screening of monoclonal antibodies enhancing preclinical development.

Ebola virus infection causes a devastating disease, known as Ebola virus disease, for which no licensed vaccine or treatment are available. The 2014-2016 Zaire Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa was the most severe reported to date, with more than 28,600 cases and 11,325 deaths according to the Center for Disease Control. A new outbreak is ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with a death toll of more than 200 people since August. One of the experimental avenues scientists are pursuing is evaluating the safety and efficacy of monoclonal antibodies isolated from survivors as promising candidates for further development as therapeutics against Ebola virus infection. However, this approach requires high doses and repeated administration of recombinant monoclonal antibodies that are complex and expensive to manufacture, so meeting the global demand while keeping the cost affordable is challenging.

“Our studies show deployment of a novel platform that rapidly combines aspects of monoclonal antibody discovery and development technology with the revolutionary properties of synthetic DNA technology,” said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Ph.D., executive vice president and director of Wistar’s Vaccine & Immunotherapy Center, and W.W. Smith Charitable Trust Professor in Cancer Research.

The team designed and enhanced optimized DMAbs that, when injected locally, provide the genetic blueprint for the body to make functional and protective Ebola virus-specific antibodies, circumventing multiple steps in the antibody development and manufacturing process. Dozens of DMAbs were tested in mice and the best-performing ones were selected for further studies. These proved to be highly effective for providing complete protection from disease in challenge studies.

“Due to intrinsic biochemical properties, some monoclonal antibodies might be difficult and slow to develop or even impossible to manufacture, falling out of the development process and causing loss of potentially effective molecules,” added Weiner. “The DMAb platform allows us to collect protective antibodies from protected persons and engineer and compare them rapidly and then deliver them in vivo to protect against infectious challenge. Such an approach could be important during an outbreak, when we need to design, evaluate and deliver life-saving therapeutics in a time-sensitive manner.”

“We started with antibodies isolated from survivors and compared the activity of anti-Ebola virus DMAbs and recombinant monoclonal antibodies over time,” said Ami Patel, Ph.D., first author on the study and associate staff scientist in the Wistar Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center. “We showed that in vivo expression of DMAbs supports extended protection over traditional antibody approaches.”

The researchers also looked at how DMAbs physically interact with their Ebola virus targets, called epitopes, and confirmed that DMAbs bind to identical epitopes as the corresponding recombinant monoclonal antibodies made in traditional bioprocess facilities.

The Weiner Laboratory is also developing an anti-Ebola virus DNA vaccine. Preclinical results from this efforts were published recently in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

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Carbon emissions will start to dictate stock prices

Carbon emissions will start to dictate stock prices

Companies that fail to curb their carbon output may eventually face the consequences of asset devaluation and stock price depreciation, according to a new study out of the University of Waterloo.

The researchers further determined that the failure of companies within the emission-intensive sector to take carbon reduction actions could start negatively impacting the general stock market in as little as 10 years’ time.

“Over the long-term, companies from the carbon-intensive sectors that fail to take proper recognizable emission abatements may be expected to experience fundamental devaluations in their stocks when the climate change risk gets priced correctly by the market,” said lead author Mingyu Fang, a PhD candidate in Waterloo’s Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science. “More specifically for the traditional energy sector, such devaluation will likely start from their oil reserves being stranded by stricter environmental regulations as part of a sustainable, global effort to mitigate the effects caused by climate change.

“Those companies may find that large portions of the reserves are at risk of being unexploitable for potential economic gains.”

Climate change impacts investment portfolios through two channels. Directly it elevates weather?related physical risk to real properties and infrastructure assets, which extends to increased market risk in equity holdings with material business exposures in climate?sensitive regions. Indirectly it triggers stricter environmental regulations and higher emission cost in a global effort in emission control, which shall induce downturns in carbon?intensive industries in which a portfolio may have material positions.

This indirect impact of climate change on investments will effectively be transformed into a political risk affecting particular asset classes, often referred to as the investment carbon risk.

As part of the study, which grew out of Fang’s PhD thesis as well as a funded research project by the Society of Actuaries under the theme of ‘Managing Climate and Carbon Risk in Investment Portfolios’, the researchers undertook an inter?temporal analysis of stock returns. They examined 36 publicly traded large emitters and related sector indices from Europe and North America around the ratification of major climate protocols. Only nine of the 36 samples were found to display recognizable carbon pricing. The historical performance of the emission?heavy sectors, such as energy, utilities, and material was also compared against those of the other industries. The carbon-intensive sectors consistently ranked at the bottom of the list across the metrics used and underperformed the market indices for both Europe and North America.

“It is in the best interest of companies in the financial, insurance, and pension industries to price this carbon risk correctly in their asset allocations,” said Tony Wirjanto, a professor jointly appointed in Waterloo’s School of Accounting & Finance and Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science, and Fang’s PhD thesis supervisor. “Companies have to take climate change into consideration to build an optimal and sustainable portfolio in the long run under the climate change risk.”

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Your heart hates air pollution; portable filters could help

Your heart hates air pollution; portable filters could help

Microscopic particles floating in the air we breathe come from sources such as fossil fuel combustion, fires, cigarettes and vehicles. Known as fine particulate matter, this form of air pollution increases the risk of cardiovascular and other serious health problems.

“Despite improvements in air quality across the U.S. during the past few decades, more than 88,000 deaths per year occur in the U.S. due to fine particulate matter air pollution exposure,” says Robert Brook, M.D., a cardiovascular medicine specialist at the University of Michigan’s Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

Now, researchers have found that an inexpensive portable air purifier used inside a home is powerful enough to round up a good portion of those miniscule particles and get them out of the indoor air — a simple move that may protect the heart.

A recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found three days of using a low-cost air purifier at home significantly lowered urban seniors’ fine particulate matter exposure. It also significantly lowered their blood pressure, which is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide.

“The results show that a simple practical intervention using inexpensive indoor air filtration units can help protect at-risk individuals from the adverse health effects of fine particulate matter air pollution,” says Brook, the study’s senior author.

He conducted the research with colleagues from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, including first author Masako Morishita, Ph.D., of MSU.

Improving indoor air

Because the nation’s population spends nearly 90 percent of its time indoors, researchers focused on exposure to pollutants while people are inside their own homes.

So instead of heading to a highway or factory, or even a park, Brook and his colleagues took their air pollution fight to living rooms and bedrooms in low-income senior housing in Detroit.

Forty seniors participated in this randomized, double-blind study between fall 2014 and fall 2016. Ninety-five percent of the participants were black; all were nonsmokers.

Each person experienced three different three-day scenarios: a sham air filter (an air filtration system without a filter), a low-efficiency air purifier system and a high-efficiency air purifier system.

Participants went about their normal business during the study period and were allowed to open windows and go outside as often as they wished. Blood pressure was measured each day, and participants wore personal air monitors to determine their personal air pollution exposure.

The researchers focused on reduced air pollutant exposure and lowered blood pressure over a three-day period as an indication of the portable air filters’ potential to be cardioprotective.

As a result, Brook says fine particulate matter exposure was reduced by 40 percent, and systolic blood pressure was reduced by an average of 3.4 mm Hg (normal systolic blood pressure is considered less than 120 mm Hg; stage 1 hypertension begins at 130 and stage 2 at 140).

“The benefits were even more marked in obese individuals who had 6 to 10 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure,” says Brook, also a professor of internal medicine at the U-M Medical School.

And even a small investment could reap big benefits: High-efficiency air purifiers reduced pollutant exposure to a greater degree, but they didn’t lower people’s blood pressure more significantly than low-efficiency air purifiers, which are widely available for less than $70 apiece.

A relatable model

Existing research has investigated air pollution’s cardiovascular and metabolomic effects in heavily polluted areas, also reporting some improvements after deploying air filters.

However, Brook says his team’s report adds an important new consideration: It was conducted in a much cleaner environment that already met existing air quality standards for fine particulate matter yet still showed the potential to reduce exposure.

“During the time of the study in Detroit, outdoor fine particulate matter levels averaged 9 micrograms per cubic meter, which is within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards,” Brook adds. “This strongly supports that even further improvements in air quality can be yet more protective to public health.”

The JAMA Internal Medicine paper further differs from previous studies through its focus on an elderly and low-income population.

Researchers, Brook says, wanted to explore preventive strategies in everyday situations where aging adults are already dealing with other health conditions and may be on medications.

Nearly half of participants in the small study met the criteria for obesity — and their mean blood pressure would be classified as hypertensive, according to the 2017 American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guideline.

It’s also the first known pollution and heart health study to focus on a three-part combination of low-income seniors, an urban environment in the U.S. and personal exposures to fine particulate matter.

Clearing the air

Despite the findings in the small study, more research is needed.

“It’s premature to recommend that our patients purchase indoor air filters to prevent heart diseases,” Brook says.

His team plans to test the approach in more diverse populations to learn whether personal reductions in fine particulate matter exposure will lead to fewer heart attacks and other negative outcomes associated with high blood pressure.

Brook says future research must also study long-term effects of the intervention to see if the reduced blood pressure will stay lower over longer time periods and result in fewer cardiovascular events.

Currently available epidemiologic calculations predict an approximate 16 percent decrease in cardiovascular events if a 3.2 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure is maintained for a period of months to years, the study’s authors note.

“In the meantime, clinicians and medical societies should play an active role in supporting clean air regulations in the effort to improve the health of their patients and families,” Brook says.

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Netflix’s Oscar hopeful ‘Roma’ gets personal in first trailer

Netflix’s Oscar hopeful ‘Roma’ gets personal in first trailer


Netflix/YouTube

Roma has been racking up praise from critics on the film festival circuit for months. Now that Netflix released a trailer for the film as it is gearing up for a limited theatrical run, it’s easy to see what people have been raving about. The film from Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón is filled with stunning black-and-white visuals that pack tons of detail into every frame.

Set in the 1970s, the film centers around a young domestic worker named Cleo — played by first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio — who works for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. While the nearly dialogue-free trailer depicts Cleo going about her daily chores and deals with raising her three children, political strife and turmoil can be seen bubbling up between frames of domestic life — all while Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” plays over the top of the action.

According to Netflix, Cuarón drew from his own childhood experiences to create the story. The semi-autobiographical film serves as a love letter to the women who raised him. The trailer gives us the first detailed look at the film since the teaser that dropped earlier this year.

Roma is one of Netflix’s most promising Oscar hopefuls, based on early reviews. The film will get an exclusive, limited theatrical run in Los Angeles, New York and Mexico starting November 21st. It will appear in additional cities in the United States as well as Toronto and London on November 29th and reach more large markets internationally on December 5. Some 70mm presentations are planned for the theatrical run. The film will be available to stream on Netflix starting December 14th.

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Underwater adventure game ‘Abzû’ is coming to the Nintendo Switch

Underwater adventure game ‘Abzû’ is coming to the Nintendo Switch


Giant Squad

Abzû, the award-winning underground aventure game from Giant Squid Studios, is making its way to the Nintendo Switch. The game will be available on the platform starting November 29th. It will sell for $19.99, but you can save 10 percent off by pre-ordering it.

Abzû takes after the tradition of games like Flower and Journey (games for which Giant Squid Studios founder Matt Nava served as art director for). It encourages users to explore and continue forward with simple mechanics and stunning visuals but doesn’t have objectives in the traditional gaming sense. There are puzzles to solve and tons of virtual sights to see. The underwater worlds of Abzû are populated by tens of thousands of fish, as well as ruins and murals from an ancient civilization.

The game first debuted back in the summer of 2016 on PS4 and Windows. It got a port to the Xbox One later that year but hadn’t made it to the Switch until now. If you haven’t picked the game up yet, or want to be able to take it with you, now is a good time to grab it.

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Swatter behind deadly ‘Call of Duty’ hoax pleads guilty to 51 charges

Swatter behind deadly ‘Call of Duty’ hoax pleads guilty to 51 charges


Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS via Getty Images

Tyler Barriss is poised to face a stiff punishment for the game-related swatting call that ultimately killed Wichita resident Andrew Finch, not to mention a host of other crimes. Barriss has pleaded guilty to 51 charges as part of a deal, including making a false report resulting in death as well as bomb threats to numerous US states and Canada. The agreement will see him face at least 20 years in prison if the judge approves the terms.

Sentencing takes place on January 30th. Barriss also faces another trial January 7th for involuntary manslaughter against Finch. Alleged co-conspirators Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill have pleaded not guilty and face a trial on January 8th.

Barriss is mainly known for a December 2017 incident where he made a false call to police as the result of a heated debate over a Call of Duty: WWII match between Gaskill and Viner. When Viner grew upset, he dared Barriss to make a swatting call against Gaskill — and didn’t realize that Gaskill had given him an old address. A police officer shot Finch, the new resident at the address, when he came to the door unaware of what was going on.

However, the charges are ultimately the culmination of a series of incidents. On Twitter, Barriss had taken credit for bomb threats to the Dallas Convention Center, a Florida high school and the FCC’s net neutrality repeal vote. We wouldn’t expect the court to be lenient on Barriss, then, since there’s a pattern of behavior that had serious consequences well before the fatal shooting.

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NASA and Autodesk are testing new ways to design interplanetary landers

NASA and Autodesk are testing new ways to design interplanetary landers


Autodesk

Autodesk, the software company behind AutoCAD, has teamed up with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to look at news ways to create an interplanetary lander that could potentially touch down on the moons of Saturn or Jupiter. When Mark Davis, the senior director of industry research at Autodesk, first approached JPL about the collaboration, NASA wasn’t too interested. But when Autodesk showed that it was possible to achieve a 30 percent or more performance improvement by way of new designs and materials, Davis’ team had JPL’s attention.

Because of the high costs and risks of space travel, NASA engineers tend to stick with what works. That means using tried and tested materials like titanium and aluminum. But traditional designs and materials are often heavy — and in a field where every gram matters, shedding a bit of weight means adding more sensors and instruments. To push lander designs in new directions, Autodesk is turning to its machine learning technology to iterate faster than it might otherwise be able to.

Autodesk calls this new process “generative design,” or design that uses machine intelligence and cloud computing that creates a broad set of solutions based on limitations set by engineers. Autodesk has used this system, available on its Fusion 360 software, in Formula1 racing. Generative design, according to Autodesk, allows engineers to turn around design solutions in as little as two-to-four weeks, much faster than the standard two-to-four months. Either way, Autodesk is hoping its design technology will help JPL put a lander on the moons of Jupiter or Saturn, paving the way for human settlements. (Whether this happens in our lifetime is another question altogether.)

That’s not to say that this would be the first time humans have explored Jupiter or Saturn. In October of 1997, NASA, along with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ASI), launched the Cassini-Huygens probe to study Saturn. It took the probe six years and 261 days to reach the ringed planet, but the photos it sent back were remarkable. It was on September 15th, 2017 that NASA last had contact with Cassini. And currently, the Juno probe is orbiting Jupiter, and has given us insight as to what’s going on inside the gas giant. To reach moons of Saturn and Jupiter, around 365-million and 746-million miles away depending on orbit respectively, will always prove to be challenging, but any headway that NASA can make would be welcome if it means the potential for human settlement out in our solar system.

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Essential will restore your headphone jack for $149

Essential will restore your headphone jack for $149


Essential

Did you say you would pay anything to put a headphone jack on a phone where it was painfully absent? Essential wants you to prove it. The startup has released its long-discussed magnetic headphone jack adapter (now called the Audio Adapter HD) for a staggering $149 — nearly a third the cost of the Essential Phone at its standard price. It’s more than just a plug, of course. There’s a built-in ESS Sabre DAC and an “audiophile-grade” amp that, together, promise 24-bit/96kHz audio for your high-end headphones. Still, you have to be very, very committed to pristine sound to spend this much on a new accessory instead of making do with the included USB-C dongle.

Look at it this way, though: it’s proof Essential isn’t just twiddling its thumbs. Rumors have emerged of the company working on an AI-driven phone that would message people on your behalf, but there otherwise hasn’t been much to say about the company besides layoffs and the sexual misconduct claims against its founder Andy Rubin. Even though the Audio Adapter HD is unlikely to sell in large numbers, it shows that Essential is active and ready to support its customer base.

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YouTube lets European creators add a merch store to their channels

YouTube lets European creators add a merch store to their channels


YouTube

Earlier this year, YouTube and Teespring joined forces to launch a shopping hub that allowed US creators to sell custom merchandise directly under their videos. Now, the companies have expanded the merch store to creators in Europe.

The feature has proven successful, with the companies claiming that merch shelf clickthroughs are 30 percent higher than other traffic sources, including annotations, links in video descriptions and banner links, meaning more people are checking out creators’ merch. If you’re a fan of a creator who uses the feature, you’ll see their products below their videos on both desktop and mobile.

Teespring is giving eligible creators (they need to be in the YouTube Partner Program and have at least 10,000 subscribers to qualify) access to its designers to help them create products. In addition, the companies are incentivizing creators to add the store to their channels by offering a bonus of $1 (or equivalent, depending on where they are) per item they sell directly through the merch shelf until June.

The merch shelf seems a solid way for creators to diversify their revenue streams, which could come in useful after many faced demonetization due to changes in advertising guidelines. Now, creators in Europe can take advantage of it too.

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The Game Awards nominees include ‘God of War,’ ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’

The Game Awards nominees include ‘God of War,’ ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’


Sony Interactive Entertainment

The Game Awards nominees for 2018 are here, and this year it’s very, very obvious who’s out front. The short list (disclaimer: we’re a judge in the competition) is dominated by God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2, both of which have a whopping eight nominations apiece — it will surprising if they don’t take home at least one award when all is said and done. They will have fierce competition, mind you. Marvel’s Spider-Man has seven nominations, while Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, the indie platformer Celeste and Fortnite (thanks to its ongoing updates and growing esports status) are in the running with four noms each.

Other notable major games on the list include Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, the considerably improved Destiny 2: Forsaken and the high-minded Detroit: Become Human, all of which have three nominations each. Also, No Man’s Sky is back in contention thanks to a dramatic overhaul delivering much of the experience people had hoped for all along.

As has increasingly become the case with The Game Awards, though, some of the most interesting nominees are the indie or out-of-left-field picks. In addition to Celeste, you’ll find multiple nominations for the mysterious whodunnit Return of the Obra Dinn, the grueling slasher Dead Cells and the surreal Donut County. Indies only occasionally have to compete with majors this time around, but it’s evident there’s a vibrant scene outside the usual blockbusters.

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Juul stops selling flavored e-cigarette pods, kills social media accounts

Juul stops selling flavored e-cigarette pods, kills social media accounts


EVA HAMBACH via Getty Images

Juul Labs, the makers of the wildly popular Juul e-cigarettes, announced today that it will stop selling most of its flavored vaping pods in retail stores. The company will also put an end to its social media promotions and advertisements. The decision on the part of Juul comes as the government appears ready to apply more scrutiny to the vape brand and its potential targeting of kids.

According to an “action plan” posted on the company website, Juul will stop fulfilling orders from retailers looking to stock its creme, cucumber, fruit and mango flavored Juul pods. However, it will continue to sell its menthol, mint and tobacco flavored pods, as they replicate the experience of a standard cigarette.

The lineup of sweeter flavors will only be available through Juul’s website, which will employ an age verification system to limit sales to people who are 21 years of age or older. Purchasers will have to provide their name, date of birth, permanent address and the last four digits of their social security number to get the flavored pods. The information has to be verified by a third-party source and will be cross-referenced with public records to confirm the buyer’s age. Juul said it will allow other retailers to sell the flavors again if they comply with a similarly strict age verification process.

In addition to pulling the flavored pods from store shelves, Juul Labs will also remove its presence from social media. The company is shutting down its accounts on Facebook and Instagram. It will also limit its Twitter and YouTube presence to non-promotional communications and will work with social media companies to remove Juul content targeted at underage users.

Juul’s goodwill efforts, which follow a similar move from competitor Altria, might be too little too late with the federal government is already breathing down its neck. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration gave e-cigarette companies a deadline to prove they aren’t targeting kids with their products. Last month, the agency seized marketing materials from Juul in its ongoing effort to crack down on underage use of e-cigarettes.

Teen vaping has become a problem in recent years. A report from the Surgeon General found a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use by high school students from 2011 to 2015. Earlier this year, FDA head Scott Gottlieb called teen vaping an “epidemic of addiction.”

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Facebook’s new career site aims to help job-seekers hone their skills

Facebook’s new career site aims to help job-seekers hone their skills


Facebook

Facebook has updated some of its career tools and launched a new website in order to help its users find new job opportunities, the company said today. Now, along with posting jobs on their Pages, businesses can also post them in Groups, and Facebook says its Mentorship tool will now make it easier for people to choose a mentor based on relevant goals and interests. Individuals will be able to share info about what they’re looking for or what they can offer as a mentorship partner, and members of their Group can look through a list of that information to find a partner. The tool will also provide weekly prompts to keep mentorship pairs’ conversations moving along.

As for new tools, Facebook is launching Learn with Facebook, which will provide courses aimed at helping users develop the skills required for the digital workforce. The company says the site will offer case studies, insider tips and resources from experts as well as lessons on topics like interviewing and résumé building. “To help make Learn With Facebook’s lessons as accessible as possible, we’re partnering with Goodwill Community Foundation to offer this training across the US,” Facebook said. “We’ll work closely with them to develop training resources for individuals of all backgrounds and education levels.”

Facebook isn’t the only company encroaching on LinkedIn’s territory. Google launched its own job site in the US last year, which expanded to the UK in July.

Learn with Facebook is available now and you can check it out here.

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Unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs

Unintended consequences of dams and reservoirs

An international team of drought scientists show that while many dams and reservoirs are built, or expanded, to alleviate droughts and water shortages, they can paradoxically contribute to making them worse. The study is published in Nature Sustainability.

Building dams and reservoirs is one of the most common approaches to cope with drought and water shortage. The aim is straightforward: reservoirs can store water during wet periods, and then release it during dry periods. As such, they can stabilize water availability, thereby satisfying water demand and alleviating water shortage. The research team behind the new study was led by professor Giuliano Di Baldassarre at Uppsala University. Their paper shows that increasing reservoir storage capacity can also lead to unintended effects in the long term, and, paradoxically, worsen water shortage.

The authors argue that there are two counterintuitive phenomena that should be considered when expanding or planning reservoirs: the supply-demand cycle and the reservoir effect.

The supply-demand cycle describes cases where increasing water supply leads to higher water demand, which can quickly offset the initial benefits of reservoirs. These cycles can be seen as a rebound effect, also known in environmental economics as Jevon’s paradox: as more water is available, water consumption tends to increase. This can result in a vicious cycle: a new water shortage can be addressed by further expansion of reservoir storage to increase (again) water availability, which enables more water consumption, until the next shortage… As such, the supply-demand cycle can trigger an accelerating spiral towards unsustainable exploitation of water resources and environmental degradation.

The reservoir effect describes cases where over-reliance on reservoirs increases the potential damage caused by drought and water shortage. The expansion of reservoirs often reduces incentives for preparedness and adaptive actions, thus increasing the negative impacts of water shortage. Moreover, extended periods of abundant water supply, supported by reservoirs, can generate higher dependence on water resources, which in turn increases social vulnerability and economic damage when water shortage eventually occurs.

The new study also provides policy implications. The authors argue that attempts to increase water supply to cope with growing water demand, which is fueled by the increase in supply, is unsustainable. Hence, they suggest less reliance on large water infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs, and more efforts in water conservation measures. In other words, coping with drought and water shortage by reducing water consumption, rather than (fueling consumption by) increasing water supply. While many water experts would agree with this general recommendation, numerous dams and reservoirs are still being built or proposed in many places around the world.

Lastly, the authors posit that the notion that “we must increase water availability to satisfy a growing water demand,” remains pervasive because there are major knowledge gaps in the study of the dynamics generated by the interplay of water, society and infrastructure. Thus, they propose an interdisciplinary research agenda to unravel the long-term effects (including the unintended consequences) of reservoirs, and other types of water infrastructure, on the spatiotemporal distribution of both water availability and demand.

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Materials provided by Uppsala University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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