Disney+ Added Content Disclaimers to 18 Episodes of 'The Muppet Show'
118 episodes of Jim Henson's classic TV series
The Muppet Show are now streaming on Disney+, writes the AV Club — but
18 episodes now begin with a content disclaimer...
The text of the disclaimers, which cannot be skipped past and include little 12-second timers so you know that you have to sit through them, explain that the episodes feature "negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures," and while "these stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now," Disney has decided to leave them in order to "acknowledge the [content's] harmful impact, learn from it, and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together..."
The disclaimer-worthy stuff includes Johnny Cash performing in front of a confederate flag in his episode and the brief appearance of a puppet dressed as a stereotypical Native American (referred to as an "Indian") in the Jim Nabors episode.
Putting a disclaimer on the show is not a new practice at Disney+. The streamer had previously put disclaimers at the start of several classic animated movies, warning viewers about "outdated cultural depictions." Last month, Disney+ took it a step further by pulling many of these movies from kids' profiles, such as Dumbo, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, and The Jungle Book. The titles are still available to watch on adult profiles with a disclaimer.
To celebrate their arrival on Disney+ the Muppets
spliced themselves into posters parodying other TV shows, including
But MovieWeb also notes reports that two
Muppet Show episodes from season 5 also had to be removed — and another episode heavily edited — due to trouble securing the music rights, "something that also prevented most of the series from getting released on home video for years."
After a Boeing 777 Rained Failed-Engine Debris on Neighborhood Below, More Planes Grounded
After a twin-engine, wide-bodied Boeing 777 took off from a Denver airport — carrying 231 passengers and 10 crew members — its right engine failed. It
began dropping debris on several neighborhoods below, CNBC reports.
America's Federal Aviation Administration issued a statement saying it was "aware of reports of debris in the vicinity of the airplane's flight path," CNBC adds, noting that less than 30 minutes later the plane had returned to the airport. No passengers were injured.
Today the FAA is issuing an emergency airworthiness directive, "requiring immediate or stepped-up inspections" of similar planes. In
a statement FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said the move "will likely mean that some airplanes will be removed from service." Dickson's statement suggests the inspections will be directed at hollow fan blades that "are unique to this model of engine, used solely on Boeing 777 airplanes."
And more steps are being taken in Japan, reports Bloomberg:
Meanwhile, Japan's transport ministry on Sunday ordered ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines to ground Boeing 777 planes they operate following the Denver engine failure. ANA operates 19 planes and JAL 13 with Pratt & Whitney's PW4000 engine that saw a failure with United Airlines plane.
Are Texas Blackouts a Warning About the Follow-on Effects of Climate Change?
This week in America, "continent-spanning winter storms triggered blackouts in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and several other states," reports the New York Times. But that was just the beginning...
One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted.
The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country's economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways....
Sewer systems are overflowing more often as powerful rainstorms exceed their design capacity. Coastal homes and highways are collapsing as intensified runoff erodes cliffs. Coal ash, the toxic residue produced by coal-burning plants, is spilling into rivers as floods overwhelm barriers meant to hold it back. Homes once beyond the reach of wildfires are burning in blazes they were never designed to withstand... The vulnerabilities show up in power lines, natural-gas plants, nuclear reactors and myriad other systems. Higher storm surges can knock out coastal power infrastructure. Deeper droughts can reduce water supplies for hydroelectric dams. Severe heat waves can reduce the efficiency of fossil-fuel generators, transmission lines and even solar panels at precisely the moment that demand soars because everyone cranks up their air-conditioners...
As freezing temperatures struck Texas, a glitch at one of two reactors at a South Texas nuclear plant, which serves 2 million homes, triggered a shutdown. The cause: Sensing lines connected to the plant's water pumps had frozen, said Victor Dricks, a spokesman for the federal Nuclear Regulatory Agency. It's also common for extreme heat to disrupt nuclear power. The issue is that the water used to cool reactors can become too warm to use, forcing shutdowns. Flooding is another risk. After a tsunami led to several meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant in 2011, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission told the 60 or so working nuclear plants in the United States, many decades old, to evaluate their flood risk to account for climate change. Ninety percent showed at least one type of flood risk that exceeded what the plant was designed to handle. The greatest risk came from heavy rain and snowfall exceeding the design parameters at 53 plants.
"All these issues are converging," said Robert D. Bullard, a professor at Texas Southern University who studies wealth and racial disparities related to the environment.
"And there's simply no place in this country that's not going to have to deal with climate change."
Martin Scorsese Argues Streaming Algorithms Devalue Cinema into 'Content'
In a new essay for Harper's magazine, Martin Scorsese argues the art of cinema is being
systematically devalued and demeaned by streaming services and their algorithms, "and reduced to its lowest common denominator, 'content.'"
"Content" became a business term for all moving images: a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode. It was linked, of course, not to the theatrical experience but to home viewing, on the streaming platforms that have come to overtake the moviegoing experience, just as Amazon overtook physical stores.
On the one hand, this has been good for filmmakers, myself included. On the other hand, it has created a situation in which everything is presented to the viewer on a level playing field, which sounds democratic but isn't. If further viewing is "suggested" by algorithms based on what you've already seen, and the suggestions are based only on subject matter or genre, then what does that do to the art of cinema...?
[A]t this point, we can't take anything for granted. We can't depend on the movie business, such as it is, to take care of cinema. In the movie business, which is now the mass visual entertainment business, the emphasis is always on the word "business," and value is always determined by the amount of money to be made from any given property — in that sense, everything from Sunrise to La Strada to 2001 is now pretty much wrung dry and ready for the "Art Film" swim lane on a streaming platform.
Is Scorsese right? Slashdot reader
entertainme shared some
reactions gathered by the BBC's Entertainment reporter. Elinor Carmi, research associate at Liverpool University's communication and media department sees a "battle between the old and new gatekeepers of art and culture."
"At its core, curation has always been conducted behind the scenes", with little clarity as to the rationale behind the choices made to produce and distribute art and culture, she says. Take the U.S.'s Motion Picture Association film rating system. The 2006 documentary, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, explored how film ratings affect the distribution of films, and accusations that big studio films get more lenient ratings than independent companies... "[I]t would be a mistake to present the old gatekeepers in romantic colours compared to new technology companies. In both cases, we are talking about powerful institutions that define, control and manage the boundaries of what is art and culture," Carmi says....
So is Scorsese right to suggest that streaming services reduce content to the "lowest common denominator"? Journalist and media lecturer Tufayel Ahmed suggests they are an easy target, and the reality is a little more complex. He says the focus on "pulling in the numbers" can mean some of the best shows don't get the promotion and are therefore cancelled... "Some of the best stuff on streaming seems to get little buzz, while tons of marketing and publicity is thrown behind more generic fare that they know people will watch. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy." Scorsese himself directly benefited from this by relying on Netflix to fund his 2019 gangster film The Irishman after traditional studios baulked at the cost. "There's an argument to be made about streaming services investing in publicity and marketing for these projects to create awareness," says Ahmed.
But if responsibility in part lands on the shoulders of streaming services, the choices of the audience themselves cannot be forgotten. "Algorithms alone can't be blamed for people consuming lowbrow content over series and movies that are deemed worthy, because people have flocked to easy viewing over acclaimed dramas on television, for example, for years."
The BBC ultimately argues that perhaps "the streaming algorithms really aren't to blame after all, but simply made in our image." But in his essay Scorsese remembered how the brave pioneering decisions made in the 1960s by film distributors and exhibitors led to that moment's "shared excitement over the possibilities of cinema" — and seems to want to preserve that special feeling:
Those of us who know the cinema and its history have to share our love and our knowledge with as many people as possible. And we have to make it crystal clear to the current legal owners of these films that they amount to much, much more than mere property to be exploited and then locked away. They are among the greatest treasures of our culture, and they must be treated accordingly.
America Has Vaccinated More People Than Any Other Country in the World
Despite America's vast population of nearly 330 million people,
43.6 million Americans have already received one or both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
The U.S. has carried out more vaccinations than any country in the world, and given a first dose to a higher percentage of its population (12%) than all but five countries: Israel, the Seychelles, the UAE, the U.K. and Bahrain. In fact, the U.S. is distributing doses three times as quickly as the EU, adjusted for population, and nearly five times as quickly as Canada.
The U.S. has some major advantages over most of the world. Not only does America have the money to reserve more doses than it could possibly use, it also has the capacity to manufacture them domestically. Canada's slow rollout and the recent dispute over doses between the EU and U.K. have underlined the difficulties of relying on imports...
It also helps that the two most effective vaccines on the market were developed entirely (Moderna) or partially (Pfizer/BioNTech) in the U.S.
Their article concludes that "Despite crumbling infrastructure and chaotic politics, the U.S. remains a scientific, technological and manufacturing powerhouse."
The Associated Press reports that America's
daily inoculation average "climbed to 1.7 million shots per day last week," adding "but as many as
double that number of doses are soon expected to be available on average each day."
Did Facebook Change Its Rules to Placate the Right?
Former lobbyist/political advisor Joel Kaplan joined Facebook in 2011 to lead its Washington D.C. outreach, reports BuzzFeed news.
But some employees said they were
very unhappy with decisions made by both Kaplan and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:
In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet's most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones. Then CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally intervened... [H]e overruled his own internal experts and opened a gaping loophole: Facebook would permanently ban Jones and his company — but would not touch posts of praise and support for them from other Facebook users. This meant that Jones' legions of followers could continue to share his lies across the world's largest social network. "Mark personally didn't like the punishment, so he changed the rules," a former policy employee told BuzzFeed News, noting that the original rule had already been in use and represented the product of untold hours of work between multiple teams and experts.
"That was the first time I experienced having to create a new category of policy to fit what Zuckerberg wanted. It's somewhat demoralizing when we have established a policy and it's gone through rigorous cycles..." said a second former policy employee who, like the first, asked not to be named so they could speak about internal matters...
Zuckerberg's "more nuanced policy" set off a cascading effect, the two former employees said, which delayed the company's efforts to remove right wing militant organizations such as the Oath Keepers, which were involved the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. It is also a case study in Facebook's willingness to change its rules to placate America's right wing and avoid political backlash.
Internal documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and interviews with 14 current and former employees show how the company's policy team — guided by Joel Kaplan, the vice president of global public policy, and Zuckerberg's whims — has exerted outsize influence while obstructing content moderation decisions, stymieing product rollouts, and intervening on behalf of popular conservative figures who have violated Facebook's rules. In December, a former core data scientist wrote a memo titled, "Political Influences on Content Policy." Seen by BuzzFeed News, the memo stated that Kaplan's policy team "regularly protects powerful constituencies" and listed several examples, including: removing penalties for misinformation from right-wing pages, blunting attempts to improve content quality in News Feed, and briefly blocking a proposal to stop recommending political groups ahead of the US election.
Since the November vote, at least six Facebook employees have resigned with farewell posts that have called out leadership's failures to heed its own experts on misinformation and hate speech. Four departing employees explicitly cited the policy organization as an impediment to their work and called for a reorganization so that the public policy team, which oversees lobbying and government relations, and the content policy team, which sets and enforces the platform's rules, would not both report to Kaplan.
Elon Musk Co-Authors COVID-19 Paper Accepted For Publication In 'Nature'
On 15 February, 2021, the paper Discrete SARS-CoV-2 antibody titers track with functional humoral stability was accepted for publication by the prestigious journal Nature — interesting not only for being a large-cohort study on COVID-19 reinfection, but for the presence of one of its coauthors: one Elon Reeve Musk. According to reporting, Musk — concerned in April 2020 with maintaining the schedule for the SpaceX crewed launch in May and wanting to make sure that an outbreak wouldn't set back plans — contacted academic researchers and worked with them to set up an antibody testing research programme. Over 4,000 SpaceX employees volunteered and were provided with periodic free testing at work to look for infection and monitor previously-infected people for reinfection. The programme gave SpaceX an advance heads up about upcoming threats, such as the growing wave in Texas in June, and continues to this day, with a new focus on mutant COVID strains.
The primary results of the study? Past infection provides a strong, although not perfect, barrier to reinfection; the level of antibodies strongly indicate the level of risk of reinfection; and this bodes well for vaccines, which tend to result in much higher antibody levels than infection.
Node.js/Deno Creator Discusses Rust, C++, TypeScript, and Vim
creator of Node.js and Deno, gave a new interview this week to the IT outsourcing company Evrone:
Ryan: I have the most fun writing Rust these days. It has a steep learning curve and is not appropriate for many problems; but for the stuff I'm working on now it's perfect. It's a much better C++. I'm convinced that I will never start a new C++ project. Rust is beautiful in its ability to express low-level machinery with such simplicity.
Evrone: As a respectable VIM user, what do you think of modern programmer editors like Visual Studio Code? Are they good enough for the old guard?
Ryan: Everyone I work with uses vscode and they love it. Probably most people should use that.
I continue to use VIM for two reasons. 1) I'm just very familiar and fast with it, I like being able to work over ssh and tmux and I enjoy the serenity of a full screen terminal. 2) It's important for software infrastructure to be text-based and accessible with simple tools. In the Java world they made the mistake of tying the IDEs too much into the worldflows of the language, creating a situation where practically one was forced to use an IDE to program Java. By using simple tooling myself, I ensure that the software I develop does not become unnecessarily reliant on IDEs. If you use grep instead of jump-to-definition too much indirection becomes intolerable. For what I do, I think this results in better software.
Parler Apparently Temporarily Blocked Its Own Co-Founder and Former CEO
"Parler, the social media site popular among conservatives,
appeared to have banned its cofounder and former CEO on Friday," reports BuzzFeed News, "before restoring his access later in the day."
An anonymous Slashdot reader shares their report:
John Matze, whom Parler's management fired earlier this month, told BuzzFeed News that he believed he had been banned after making several posts and comments on the platform earlier this week. Screenshots that Matze shared on a Telegram channel showed that his account had been made "private" on Friday after he'd made a post asking his 722,000 Parler followers what they thought the "fair market value" of the company was. Earlier this week, he had made a post on Parler asking followers to join him on Telegram, a popular messaging app. When BuzzFeed News attempted to communicate with the handle, it received a message that the account had been "blocked."
"I know it's a ban because I know how the architecture works," Matze told BuzzFeed News over text. "I can't log in anymore."
After BuzzFeed News contacted a Parler spokesperson about the situation, the social network unblocked the account, according to Matze, who provided a screenshot. The spokesperson did not provide any comment.
Could Drinking Coffee Lower Your Risk of Heart Failure?
The New York Times reports:
A large analysis looked at hundreds of factors that may influence the risk of heart failure and found one dietary factor in particular that was associated with a lower risk: drinking coffee...
The analysis included extensive, decades-long data from three large health studies with 21,361 participants, and used a method called machine learning that uses computers to find meaningful patterns in large amounts of data. "Usually, researchers pick things they suspect would be risk factors for heart failure — smoking, for example — and then look at smokers versus nonsmokers," said the senior author, Dr. David P. Kao, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado. "But machine learning identifies variables that are predictive of either increased or decreased risk, but that you haven't necessarily thought of."
Using this technique, Dr. Kao and his colleagues found 204 variables that are associated with the risk for heart failure. Then they looked at the 41 strongest factors, which included, among others, smoking, marital status, B.M.I., cholesterol, blood pressure and the consumption of various foods. The analysis is in Circulation: Heart Failure. In all three studies, coffee drinking was associated more strongly than any other dietary factor with a decreased long-term risk for heart failure.
Drinking a cup a day or less had no effect, but two cups a day conferred a 31 percent reduced risk, and three cups or more reduced risk by 29 percent...
Should you start drinking coffee or increase the amount you already drink to reduce your risk for heart failure? "We don't know enough from the results of this study to recommend this," said Dr. Kao, adding that additional research would be needed.
Sophisticated New Malware Found on 30,000 Macs Stumps Security Pros
Long-time Slashdot reader
A previously undetected piece of malware found on almost 30,000 Macs worldwide is generating intrigue in security circles, which are still trying to understand precisely what it does and what purpose its self-destruct capability serves.
Once an hour, infected Macs check a control server to see if there are any new commands the malware should run or binaries to execute. So far, however, researchers have yet to observe delivery of any payload on any of the infected 30,000 machines, leaving the malware's ultimate goal unknown. The lack of a final payload suggests that the malware may spring into action once an unknown condition is met.
Also curious, the malware comes with a mechanism to completely remove itself, a capability that's typically reserved for high-stealth operations. So far, though, there are no signs the self-destruct feature has been used, raising the question why the mechanism exists. Besides those questions, the malware is notable for a version that runs natively on the M1 chip that Apple introduced in November, making it only the second known piece of macOS malware to do so...
The malware has been found in 153 countries with detections concentrated in the US, UK, Canada, France, and Germany.
Red Canary, the security firm that discovered the malware, has named it "Silver Sparrow." Long-time Slashdot reader
Besides the novel installation method, Silver Sparrow is also mysterious in its payload: a single, tiny binary that does nothing but open a window reading "Hello, World!" (in v1, which targets Intel Macs) or "You did it!" (in v2, which is an M1-compatible fat binary). These "bystander binaries" are never executed and appear to be proofs-of-concept or placeholders for future functionality.
Developer Claims Chrome Uses 10x More RAM Than Safari
Under normal and lightweight web browsing, Google Chrome uses 10x more RAM than Safari on macOS Big Sur, according to a test conducted by Flotato creator Morten Just (via iMore).
In a blog post, Morten Just outlines that he put both browsers to the test in two scenarios on the latest version of macOS. The first test was conducted on a virtual machine, and the second on a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro with 32GB of RAM. In the first round of testing, Just simulated a typical browsing pattern of opening Twitter, scrolling around, and then opening a new tab with Gmail and composing an email.
Under that test, Just found that Chrome reached 1GB of RAM usage, while Safari used only 80MB of RAM.
The two-tab test was only the start, however. With 54 tabs open, Just found that Google Chrome used 24x more RAM per tab compared to Safari. Both browsers, according to Just, were free of any extensions, and this specific test was conducted on his actual MacBook Pro, not a virtual machine. Per his findings, Chrome used 290MB of RAM per open tab, while Safari only used 12MB of RAM per open tab.
Could an Ethically-Correct AI Shut Down Gun Violence?
The Next Web writes:
A trio of computer scientists from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York recently published research detailing a potential AI intervention for murder: an ethical lockout. The big idea here is to stop mass shootings and other ethically incorrect uses for firearms through the development of an AI that can recognize intent, judge whether it's ethical use, and ultimately render a firearm inert if a user tries to ready it for improper fire...
Clearly the contribution here isn't the development of a smart gun, but the creation of an ethically correct AI. If criminals won't put the AI on their guns, or they continue to use dumb weapons, the AI can still be effective when installed in other sensors. It could, hypothetically, be used to perform any number of functions once it determines violent human intent. It could lock doors, stop elevators, alert authorities, change traffic light patterns, text location-based alerts, and any number of other reactionary measures including unlocking law enforcement and security personnel's weapons for defense...
Realistically, it takes a leap of faith to assume an ethical AI can be made to understand the difference between situations such as, for example, home invasion and domestic violence, but the groundwork is already there. If you look at driverless cars, we know people have already died because they relied on an AI to protect them. But we also know that the potential to save tens of thousands of lives is too great to ignore in the face of a, so far, relatively small number of accidental fatalities...