YouTube suspends comments on videos of kids
By RACHEL LERMAN
AP Technology Writer
Friday, March 1
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — YouTube said Thursday it will turn off comments on nearly all videos featuring kids — potentially affecting millions of posts on the site — after reports last week that pedophiles were leaving inappropriate comments on innocuous videos of children.
The change comes as YouTube grapples with moderating content across its platform as concerns about hate speech, violence and conspiracy theories continue to plague it.
It will take YouTube several months to disable comments on all videos featuring minors, the company said. It already started the process last week when it turned off comments from tens of millions of videos.
Advertisers including Nestle, AT&T and Fortnite-maker Epic Games pulled ads from YouTube last week after the inappropriate comments about children were unearthed by a popular YouTuber and media reports. At least one company, Nestle, was satisfied with YouTube’s response and reinstated ads late last week.
A small number of channels which have videos featuring kids will be allowed to keep comments turned on. But they must be known to YouTube and must actively monitor the comments beyond the standard monitoring tools YouTube provides.
Turning off comments on such a large number of videos seems an “extreme reaction,” said eMarketer analyst Paul Verna. But the issue involves the safety of children, so it makes sense YouTube would want to act quickly, he said.
Comments aren’t the main focus of the video-publishing site, but turning them off will likely diminish the experience for many users and video creators, he said.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged the concerns Thursday, tweeting, “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform.”
The company said it has also released an updated version of its automated moderating system that it expects will identify and delete two times as many inappropriate comments.
YouTube, like Facebook, Twitter and other sites that allow user publishing, have faced increasing calls to monitor what appears on their sites and get rid of unsuitable content. The companies all say they have taken action to protect users. But issues keep popping up.
Concerns about YouTube comments weren’t even a top priority for advertisers and viewers a couple weeks ago, Verna said.
“It just makes you wonder, what’s the next thing that going to happen?”
Is Congress about to make child care more affordable? 5 questions answered
March 1, 2019
A new bill to provide affordable child care for working families faces an uphill battle in Congress.
Author: Taryn Morrissey, Associate Professor of Public Administration and Policy, American University School of Public Affairs
Disclosure statement: Taryn Morrissey has received funding from the Robert Wood Johnson, Ford, Peterson, Gates, Heising-Simons, and the Bainum Family Foundations and the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture. She is a non-resident fellow at the Urban Institute.
Partners: American University School of Public Affairs provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Editor’s note: Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., recently reintroduced their Child Care for Working Families Act – a bill they say will “ensure affordable, high-quality child care for working middle class families and those living paycheck to paycheck.”
Taryn Morrissey, author of “Cradle to Kindergarten: A New Plan to Combat Inequality,” and a former senior adviser on early childhood policy during the Obama administration, explains how far the bill would go in achieving that goal – and also whether it has a chance of passing.
1. How big of a deal is this bill and why?
It’s a big deal because in 2016, about 60 percent of kids under age 6 were in some type of nonparental child care if they weren’t in kindergarten.
The Child Care for Working Families Act would enhance our existing public child care subsidy program by nearly doubling the number of children eligible. In 2012, 14.2 million children were eligible for child care subsidies under federal rules.
It’s important to point out that child care is more than a place for children to spend time while their parents work. Child care should also provide opportunities for children to learn. If teachers are well-trained and adequately paid, and provide enriching experiences and activities, early education can have lasting, positive impacts on children’s educational, health and economic outcomes.
Unfortunately, much of the care families use today is of low or mediocre quality. High-quality care is more expensive than most parents can afford. Child care expenditures make up about 11 percent of families’ annual income, but that reflects families’ use of a mix of licensed centers or child care homes and informal arrangements with friends or relatives.
If a family wants to use center-based care for an infant, that costs much more – a whopping 27 percent of median income for single-parent households. And in most regions of the U.S., families with young children are spending more on child care than they are on housing, food or health care.
2. Will working families and the poor be able to feel or see the difference? If so, how?
Yes, parents with young children – and who are typically earning less now than they will when they are further along in their careers – would have more money for housing, health care and the many other expenses that come with raising children. Further, if they choose, parents who left the workforce due to the high costs of child care will be able to return to work without having to spend a sizable portion of their paychecks on child care.
Families with infants and toddlers will likely find it easier to find and pay for child care. High-quality infant-toddler care is currently very expensive and hard to find, even though it’s important for children’s development. The bill will also provide funds for states to expand their preschool programs for 3- and 4-year-old children.
3. Making child care affordable is one thing. Providing quality child care is another. Can this bill really do both?
Yes, and one of the ways it will do that is by increasing workforce training and pay.
In 2013, child care teachers earned US$10.33 per hour, compared to $15.11 and $25.40 per hour for preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers, respectively. Consequently, 40 percent of child care workers rely on public assistance at some point in their careers.
It should come as little surprise that turnover rates among preschool and child care teachers are high. This turnover is associated with poorer child outcomes.
More skilled and consistent caregivers will translate to higher-quality early learning experiences.
4. Where will this bill place America among other advanced nations in terms of providing affordable child care?
If passed, America’s spending on early childhood education would be closer to those of our peer nations. For instance, in 2013, the United States spent less than 0.5 percent of GDP on early childhood education, while France, New Zealand and the Nordic countries spent more than 1 percent of GDP. The average for nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, is 0.8 percent.
Research has shown that high-quality early learning experiences promote children’s school readiness. Children who don’t have these experiences fall behind early and have a more difficult time catching up. Expanding access to early educational experiences would promote America’s global competitiveness by ensuring that young children are best prepared for school their first day of kindergarten.
5. How much will this bill cost and how likely is this bill to become law?
No public cost analyses have been done. The bill itself appropriates $20 billion in fiscal 2020, $30 billion in fiscal 2021, and $40 billion in fiscal 2022, and whatever is needed after that for child care subsidy expansions.
Unfortunately, this bill is unlikely to become law – at least anytime in the next two years. Although the Trump administration has supported child care and paid family leave policies, independent analyses indicate their proposals would do little to help low- and middle-income families. The child care subsidy program received a substantial boost in funding following the bipartisan budget deal in February 2018, but Congress has not acted on other early childhood policy proposals.
In the absence of federal action, cities and states like the District of Columbia, California and Oregon are passing or considering sweeping improvements to their early childhood systems.
These state and local efforts, the Child Care for Working Families Act and other proposals, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s child care plan, would help reduce inequality in the short term by putting more money in the hands of families struggling to make ends meet. In the long term, these efforts will help better prepare America’s children for the workforce of tomorrow.
‘Micro snails’ we scraped from sidewalk cracks help unlock details of ancient earth’s biological evolution
February 28, 2019
Matthew Brown, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State University
Daniel Lahr, Assistant Professor of Zoology, Universidade de São Paulo
Disclosure statement: Matthew Brown receives funding from National Science Foundation (Division of Environmental Biology: Award #1456054) and Texas EcoLab. Daniel Lahr receives funding from Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo, FAPESP grant #2013/04585-3.
Partners: Mississippi State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Every step you take, you’re likely walking on a world of unseen and un-described microbial diversity. And you don’t need to head out into nature to find these usually unnoticed microscopic organisms.
As biologists, we know this firsthand. A meetup for coffee several years ago ended with our using makeshift sampling tools – actually a coffee stirrer and a coffee cup lid – to collect some of the black gunk from between the sidewalk’s concrete slabs. In this mundane space on the Mississippi State University campus, we discovered microbes that have lived on Earth for millions of years.
Finding these charismatic organisms in the environment, while exciting, is just the first step. Our mutual interest is to better understand how organisms are related to one another. We’re using DNA to reveal their relationships in the very distant past.
By sampling organisms that are alive today, we can ask deeper questions about the evolution that happened millions of years ago in now extinct ancestors.
Piecing together the tree of life
Our simple act of collection after our 2015 coffee date started a fruitful collaboration between our labs in the field of molecular protistology. Our focus is on the microscopic single-celled organisms called protists, particularly ones that move around using tiny tentacles called pseudopodia.
Amphizonella – identified in the authors’ sidewalk sample – has a soft protective layer.
One elusive critter we identified in our sidewalk sample is an amoeba named Amphizonella; we joke that it makes its own “leather jacket” in the form of a soft, protective outer layer.
Despite what other scientists had previously thought, we had a hunch that this organism wasn’t closely related to other amoebae that have tougher outer coverings. This other much larger group, called testate amoebae, have shells – imagine microscopic snails – instead of leather jackets.
Because testate amoebae make a hard shell, they have the potential to fossilize. In fact, their vivid fossil record represents some of the oldest unequivocal fossils of eukaryotes – the category of life whose members hold their DNA within their cells’ nuclei. Why is this important? Human beings are also eukaryotes, as are plants, fungi, other animals, kelps and protists. Because these amoebae are some of the oldest eukaryotic fossils, they can in turn tell researchers like us something about our own species’ origins.
Since the advent of DNA sequencing in the early 2000s, biologists have used a small piece of the genome, even a single gene, to examine the relationships between organisms, though with limited success. Through similarity of DNA sequences between living organisms, one can infer relationships using complex computational approaches that model evolution change over time from empirically derived data. Simply put, scientists try to piece together who’s related to whom in order to reconstruct the evolutionary tree of life, or what we call a phylogenetic tree.
The first step of single-cell transcriptomics is isolating a single organism. Here, a micropipette picks up one Amphizonella cell.
In most cases the testate amoebae are quite difficult to cultivate in the laboratory, making it very hard to obtain enough material to sequence their DNA with the usual methods.
To overcome these challenges, we’re using a cutting-edge technique that allows us to take an organism directly from the environment and sequence its entire transcriptome – that’s the blueprint of all the proteins that it makes. This way, we’re able to bypass sequencing the whole genome (with its extraneous information) and sequence only the protein-coding regions. We end up with high-quality data of billions of base pairs of DNA that we can directly compare with similar data from other organisms.
This method provides better resolution by sampling hundreds of genes, rather than a single one. Then we use the data to build a phylogenetic tree of life that organizes our amoebae by how closely related they are to each other based on the similarity of their DNA. With these data, we can go further and compare our testate amoebae to other eukaryotes and identify what makes them unique and similar at a genomic level.
Connecting today’s life to ancient ancestors
Because life evolved over billions of years from a last universal common ancestor, all organisms, both living and extinct, must be related to each other in a single family tree.
But fossils don’t preserve DNA information. While it’s true that some ancient DNA sequencing is possible, in general it’s only been done with frozen samples like the woolly mammoth or ancient human beings like mummified remains. These ancient DNA samples have not really fossilized, and in comparison to fossils, they’re significantly more recent – for instance, the oldest human-related DNA to have been sequenced was from a Denisovan person’s tooth, which is about 110,000 years old.
In contrast, the fossil of Archaeopteryx, one of the most ancient relatives of birds, is about 150 million years old. That means that, today, we are about 100,000 times more distant to Archaeopteryx than we are to the Denisovan remains. That’s an immense amount of time.
A scanning electron micrograph of a fossilized Ciclocyrillium torquata, sampled from the Urucum formation in central Brazil.
The fossils that seem to relate to today’s testate amoebae are about 750 million years old, from a time period called the Neoproterozoic. Scientists know very little about what was happening on Earth in that very distant past. Researchers have identified these tiny fossils in rocks collected in the Grand Canyon and central Brazil.
In order to compare the tree we created based on DNA from living species with the fossilized shells of the Neoproterozoic, we had to somehow extrapolate our data. Using the rates of evolution calculated in our tree, we were able to apply these rates using how the shells look today, to estimate what they might have looked in the past. This way, we can create a hypothetical ancestor that we can then compare to the actual fossils.
A family tree of testate amoebae linking the fossil record (left) to present day testate amoebae (right).
Our results were impressive. We calculated seven hypothetical ancestors based on a few million possibilities. When we compared them to the fossil record, previously described in the literature, we found five fossil species that were incredibly similar to our predictions. This allowed us to confidently determine that those Neoproterozoic fossils are indeed very ancient testate amoebae, and that this group has been around since before 750 million years ago. And even by then, they had already considerably diversified.
Showing that these creatures were around and diverse at such deep time scales is important because they’re complex organisms, with complex ecologies and behaviors. They provide an inside look into what life might have been like in those ancient eras. The amoebae can be predators, but they can also be grazers, or even harbor symbiotic algae that produce their food, making them primary producers.
The fact that many diverse types of testate amoebae were around by this stage implies that complex food webs had already developed, which in turn has implications for what the environment might have been like. Now, geochemists will compare their notes to our biological insights, and our understanding of ancient earth will continue to improve.
Why small US theaters have canceled ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
By MARK KENNEDY
AP Entertainment Writer
Friday, March 1
NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of community and nonprofit theaters across the U.S. have been forced to abandon productions of “To Kill a Mockingbird” under legal threat by Broadway and Hollywood producer Scott Rudin. The combative move has prompted calls for a boycott of Rudin’s work.
Rudin is arguing that author Harper Lee signed over to him exclusive worldwide rights to the title of the novel and that Rudin’s current adaptation on Broadway — written by Aaron Sorkin — is the only version allowed to be performed.
That means different adaptations have had to be scuttled in such small venues as the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City; Mugford Street Players in Marblehead, Massachusetts; and the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo, New York, as well as a planned United Kingdom and Ireland tour. They had licensed the rights for a different version, written by Christopher Sergel and licensed by The Dramatic Publishing Company or DPC.
In a statement, Rudin defended his position. “We hate to ask anybody to cancel any production of a play anywhere, but the productions in question as licensed by DPC infringe on rights licensed to us by Harper Lee directly,” he said.
“The Sergel play can contractually continue to be performed under set guidelines as described in detail in its own agreement with Harper Lee — and as long as those guidelines are adhered to, we have no issue with the play having a long life.”
Anger over the move has triggered an online revolt using the rallying cry #BoycottRudinplays. Chris Peterson, founder of the OnStage Blog, wants ticket buyers to steer clear of all current and upcoming Rudin productions on Broadway, including “Hilary and Clinton,” ”Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus,” ”King Lear,” ”The Ferryman” and “The Book of Mormon.”
“If a theatre was consciously stealing creative license, that would be one thing. This is something else entirely. This is wrong,” he writes. “Prohibiting others to perform this piece goes against everything the novel is about in the first place.”
The all-volunteer Curtain Call Theatre in Braintree, Massachusetts, said it received a letter threatening damages of up to $150,000, a staggering amount for a venue where tickets for plays are $20 and $25 for musicals.
“Due to the substantial financial impact defending such an action would have on our small theatre group, we have no choice but to comply and, thus, cancel our upcoming production of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Not doing so would put our theatre at great risk,” the theater said in a statement.
In Ohio, the Dayton Playhouse, an active community theater since 1959, had to abruptly cancel its “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The cast and crew have been hard at work on the production for weeks.
“I feel terrible for our artists, onstage and backstage, who poured their hearts into making something beautiful and meaningful, only to have it ended so suddenly,” said Matt Lindsay, chair of the Dayton Playhouse’s board of directors.
The Broadway adaptation by Sorkin, creator of TV’s “The West Wing” and the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “The Social Network,” stars Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch, the Alabama lawyer who defends a black man from a false charge of raping a white woman.
A spokesman for the American Association of Community Theatre said Thursday the organization would not weigh in on the dispute.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
THE LINCOLN THEATRE’S “COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS” SERIES EXPLORES “THE AFRICAN DIASPORA IN DANCE” MARCH 28
African-Americans have used dance to tell their story, assert their identity, and express their unique creativity. Folk dance, popular dance crazes, and the high arts have all been unquestionably influenced by our genetic muscle memory of African movement. Facilitated by a local panel of speakers, this Community Conversations event will explore “Katherine Dunham to Misty Copeland – The African Diaspora in Dance.” The panel will include China White, former ballerina with Dance Theatre of Harlem, and members of Thiossane West African Dance Institute.
The Lincoln Theatre Association Community Conversation “Katherine Dunham to Misty Copeland – The African Diaspora in Dance” will be held at the Lincoln Theatre Cardinal Health Ballroom (769 E. Long St.) on Thursday, March 28. Doors open at 5:30pm. The program will begin at 6pm. Admission is free.
This program is made possible through the generous support of Donna and Larry James.
The Lincoln Theatre Community Conversations Series presents THE AFRICAN DIASPORA IN DANCE
Thursday, March 28, 6 pm
Lincoln Theatre Cardinal Health Ballroom (769 E. Long St.)
African-Americans have used dance to tell their story, assert their identity, and express their unique creativity. Folk dance, popular dance crazes, and the high arts have all been unquestionably influenced by our genetic muscle memory of African movement. Facilitated by a local panel of speakers, this Community Conversations event will explore “Katherine Dunham to Misty Copeland – The African Diaspora in Dance.” Doors open at 5:30pm. The event begins at 6pm. Admission is free. www.LincolnTheatreColumbus.com
Support for the Lincoln Theatre’s 2018-19 season is provided in part by the Greater Columbus Arts Council, the City of Columbus, Franklin County, Nationwide, and the Ohio Arts Council to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
About the Lincoln Theatre
First opened in 1928, the Lincoln Theatre is a landmark in African-American and jazz history. After undergoing a $13.5 million renovation funded by a partnership of public and private support, the Lincoln reopened in May 2009 as a multi-use, state-of-the-art performing arts and education center serving the diversity of the central Ohio community. The Lincoln is a bustling hub of activity 365 days a year hosting performances, rehearsals, and classes in the performing arts, as well as a wide variety of community events such as film festivals, meetings, and receptions.