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Original Mickey Mouse Cartoon Enters Public Domain, Here’s What We Already Have To Look Forward To 

Steamboat Willie, the original Mickey Mouse cartoon, officially lost its US copyright protection on January 1st 2024, making its likeness available to the public, who have already taken advantage of having legal access to the iconic character.

ticketmaster

‘Fans First’ Live-Event Ticketing Reform Bill Introduced By US Senators 

Six US Senators have introduced a new “Fans First Act” to address the multiple discrepancies in ticketing sales across the country. The live event ticketing system in the US is saturated with fake or overpriced tickets from resellers, making it nearly impossible for fans to be able to afford to go see their favorite live events. 

The bipartisan bill was brought to Congress by three Republicans and three Democrats; John Cornyn of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Peter Welch of Vermont, and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. 

This is the newest move from Congress to battle “high and exploitative” ticket pricing for things like concerts and other live events, according to reports

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The issues with online ticketing sales have always been present, but issues reached a head in 2022 with tickets for Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen’s tour’s crashed Ticketmaster and subsequently crashed the website and made prices increase exponentially. 

At the time, several Taylor Swift fans sued Ticketmaster for “fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations” and alleged that “intentional deception” from the site allowing scalpers and resellers to buy a majority of the tickets to upsell them exponentially. 

For example, within the first few hours of Swift’s tour tickets going on sale secondary sellers were able to purchase a majority of them and price them at up to $22,000.

The suit alleged that “because no other venue can hold half as many people as the stadiums and venues working through Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift and other popular musicians have no choice but to work through Ticketmaster.” 

The US justice department started an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, after this incident to look into whether or not they abused their power in its multibillion-dollar entertainment industry. 

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The Fans First Act is seeking to improve transparency with ticket pricing by requiring all live event ticket sellers to advertise the total price of a given ticket, including all fees and additional charges, so that when a fan goes to purchase a ticket, they understand the total price immediately and aren’t caught off guard by large fees and additional charges when they checkout. 

Fans will also have a clear understanding as to whether the ticket they’re purchasing is from a reseller or the original retailer. 

The Fans First Act will also work to strengthen the requirements of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act which was signed into law in 2016. The BOTS Act worked to prohibit the use of bots to purchase large quantities of tickets for resellers to later upcharge. It also imposes civil penalties on resellers practicing illegal sales.

“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists or venues. This legislation would rebuild trust in the ticketing system by cracking down on bots and others who take advantage of consumers through price gouging and other predatory practices and increase price transparency for ticket purchasers,” said Congressman Cornyn.

Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, also released a statement supporting the new bill: “We support the Fans First Act and welcome legislation that brings positive reform to live event ticketing. We believe it’s critical Congress acts to protect fans and artists from predatory resale practices, and have long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites, as well as other measures. We look forward to our continued work with policymakers to advocate for even stronger reforms and enforcement.”

tiktok

Indiana State’s Lawsuit Against TikTok Over Child Safety Dismissed By Judge

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit in Indiana state that was filed against TikTok over accusations of making false claims about safety of children on the app and age-appropriate content. 

According to CNN, Judge Jennifer DeGroote of Allen County Superior Court in Fort Wayne, Indiana stated that the court lacks “personal jurisdiction” over the social media platform, and that downloading an app for free is not considered “consumer transaction” under the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.” 

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The lawsuit was initially filed in December 2022, and was originally two separate lawsuits that were later consolidated. This was the first lawsuit filed by a state against TikTok, however, similar lawsuits are currently active in other states. 

“[The state respects the ruling] but we also disagree with it on various points and are considering appellate options at this time,” the office of Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said in a statement to CNN

“We were the first state to file suit against TikTok, but not the last, and it’s reassuring to see others take up this ongoing fight against a foreign Big Tech threat, in any jurisdiction.”

Rokita also stated that TikTok is a “malicious and menacing threat unleashed on unsuspecting Indiana consumers by a Chinese company that knows full well the harms it inflicts on users.”

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The lawsuit alleged that the social media platform advertises to younger individuals with the sentiment that it’s a safe app, however, the app itself easily grants access for users to see inappropriate content such as nudity, profanity, and drug and alcohol use. 

The lawsuit also stated that TikTok collects sensitive data from its users and uses their personal information. “[TikTok] has deceived those consumers to believe that this information is protected from the Chinese government and Communist Party.”

Indiana also has been involved in a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Instagram, for its addictive nature and harm to young users’ mental health. Dozens of other states have filed similar lawsuits against Meta as well. 

Indiana was also one of the first states to ban TikTok on any government-issued devices over “the threat of gaining access to critical US information and infrastructure.”

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How AI Could Help Prevent Brain Injuries In Contact Sports 

Artificially intelligent computers are now being taught how to identify on-field head impacts, within the NFL and other contact sports, as a means of preventing and identifying brain injuries right away as opposed to waiting for the player to get checked out. 

NFL’s chief medical officer, Allen Sills, spoke with The Guardian about how the new technology is helping to reduce head injuries and major impacts, as well as advancing the equipment medical teams in professional sports leagues have access to. 

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At the NFL match between the Baltimore Ravens and the Tennessee Titans in London, the technology was used to analyze the level and rate of head impacts for the players, and using that information to teach better techniques for the players as a preventative measure. 

The technology, if adopted, would be used within sensors in the football helmets, so it can analyze the force of each tackle and conclude how severe a given injury may be when it occurs. In Europe, rugby teams became the first to adopt smart mouthguard technology to flag major impacts in real time. 

If a player is hit, and the force exceeds a certain threshold, the player will automatically be taken off the field for head injury assessment by a doctor. Dr Eanna Falvey, World Rugby’s chief medical officer, calls it “a gamechanger  in potentially identifying many of the 18% of concussions that now come to light only after a match.”

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The technology can also be utilized in sports like boxing to get the most accurate readings as to whether or not one of the athletes is potentially concussed.

According to Dr Ross Tucker, a science and research consultant for World Rugby: “we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to how smart mouthguards and other technologies could make sports safer.”

“Imagine in the future, we could work out that four impacts above 40G creates the same risk of an injury as one above 90G, or that three within 15 minutes at any magnitude increases risk the same way that one at 70G does. There are so many questions we can start asking,” Tucker says

“It’s one thing to assist to identify concussions, it’s another entirely to say it’s going to allow coaches and players to track exactly how many significant head impacts they have in a career – especially with all the focus on long-term health risks. If they can manage that load, particularly in training, that has performance and welfare benefits,” he says.

google

Google To Replace Passwords With Passkeys In New Update 

On Tuesday, Google announced an update to the way they plan to enforce cybersecurity: by replacing passwords with passkeys instead. According to Gizmodo Magazine, Google claimed it’s planning to “make passwords a rarity, and eventually obsolete.” 

Passkeys have been around for a little while now. A passkey is defined as any sort of short form method of unlocking your devices or accounts, for example, using your fingerprint or pin code to unlock your phone. 

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The biggest advantage of these types of cybersecurity systems is that hackers will need your entire device, not just your password, to gain access to your accounts; as most passkeys only work on the single device they’re implemented on. 

According to Google, passkeys are 40% faster than passwords as well, and are popular among consumers due to the fact that they don’t need to memorize long randomized passwords full of various letters, numbers, and symbols.

According to Gizmodo, technology experts have been predicting for the past decade that the use of passwords for cybersecurity would likely become obsolete, however, every year that sentiment has been proven wrong, especially with the rise of new streaming services and social media platforms in the past five years alone. 

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Google, however, is the platform that has the best chance at being the catalyst for this transition. As one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Google has the potential to set a new precedent when it comes to how the average person protects their presence online. 

Google has stated that when a user logs into their account, a new prompt will appear asking if the user wants to create and use passkeys, allowing them to “skip passwords when possible” if you go into the settings of your Google account, and use other features. 

With these new changes, it’s still not likely that passwords will go away anytime soon. 

“The tech industry has a lot of work to tackle before you can forget all your passwords, but that impossible dream is now a massive step closer to reality,” wrote Thomas Germain.

New Study Offers Explanation As To Why Some Covid Patients Never Felt Symptoms 

In a new study published in Nature this month, scientists have estimated that over 20% of people who were infected with Covid-19 never had any symptoms, and now believe that their genetics are the reasoning behind why they never felt sick. 

Some people have a version of a gene in their immune system known as HLA-B which protects them from feeling the effects of the virus. The study found that people with a special variant of the gene are 2 to 8.5 times more likely to be asymptomatic than those without the variant. 

Scientists have concluded that this protein remembers infections from other seasonal coronaviruses, such as many common colds, and thus remembers how to go after the Covid-19 virus. 

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Jill Hollenbach is an immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco who led the research in the new study. Hollenbach herself had Covid-19, but it wasn’t an asymptomatic experience. 

“I had Covid-19. I was sick for about a week. I didn’t love it,” Hollenbach explained, describing a more average experience with moderate symptoms before making a full recovery. Now, her research is very focused on the more extreme cases, as well as cases with no symptoms. 

“One extreme is very severe disease [leading to hospitalization or death]. And the other end of that spectrum is you didn’t have any symptoms. We really haven’t understood what’s driving that,” she stated.

Hollenbach’s Covid-19 Citizen Science Study received contributions from the Be The Match program, which accepts donations of bone marrow from volunteers. 

“We simply asked people who were registered donors to track their COVID experience through a smartphone app and consented to let us look at their genetic data and link it to their answers,” Hollenbach said.

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When it comes to the HLA variants, Hollenbach found that one specific one, known as HLA-B*15:01, was associated with asymptomatic Covid. 

“To be fair, not everybody that has [HLA-B*15:01] will be asymptomatic. But it was a really clear, robust and replicable association. The thinking is that your exposure to some seasonal cold viruses, that in some cases share a lot of similarities with parts of SARS-CoV-2, gave you some existing immunity,” Hollenbach says.

Dr. Eric Topol, a physician-scientist at the Scripps Research Institute, discussed how this recent study could be the first step in further medical research: “It’s a breakthrough, I think it may wind up giving us a whole new map for what to do in terms of drugs and vaccines, which is really notable.”

One in every five people in the study were reported to be asymptomatic when they contracted Covid-19, and had the HLA-B*15:01 variant, there may even be other variants that offer the same potential protection. 

“I think that it gives us an opportunity to think about potentially developing vaccines and therapeutics that are aimed not at preventing infection but preventing symptoms,” Hollenbach says.

“If you can find a path so that people don’t get sick from COVID. That’s extraordinary,” Topol says.

tiger

India’s Endangered Tiger Population Is Steadily Increasing Thanks To Conservation Efforts 

In the beginning of the 20th century, there were around 100,000 tigers roaming around Asia before human intervention caused that number to plummet. In 2006, it was reported that only around 1,411 tigers remained in India; the nation with the most of the world’s remaining tiger population. 

Now, conservation efforts have helped that number grow, and nearly double, to around 3,167, according to reports from last year from a tiger census study. 

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Currently, that number accounts for around 70% of the world’s tiger population, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke on this increase in an address on Sunday.

“We have thousands of years of history related to tigers … The tiger is considered our brother in many tribes. A better future for humanity is only possible when our environments are protected and our biodiversity continues to expand.”

The tiger population in Asia began steeply declining in the 1940s due to an increase in the human population. Human’s efforts with agricultural expansion, deforestation, and natural infrastructure has impacted the natural environments in which tiger’s live. 

The WWF stated that these human interventions have caused tigers to no longer have a solitary environment, and drastically removed the large territories they use for hunting. They also reported that as of today, tigers exist on only 7% of the land they used to occupy. 

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In 1971, India had a population of around 547 million, and today they’re at 1.4 billion and set to become the world’s most populated country this year. 

In the 1980s, unregulated poaching also caused the tiger population to decline drastically. Tigers have been hunted for sport, social status, and consumption. Although India banned tiger hunting in 1972, it still remains a major issue; in 2005 India cited poaching as the reasoning for the complete extinction of tigers living in an Indian reserve. 

In the past years, conservation efforts have developed 53 new tiger reserves that stretch across 75,800 square kilometers; initially these efforts only had 9 reservations. Authorities have even paid and relocated entire villages as a means of making more space for the tigers. 

Government funded technology has embraced the use of drones, camera traps, and advanced software systems to track tiger populations and ideally keep them safe from illegal poachers. 

While poaching and the ongoing threat of climate change still poses a major threat to the tiger population, the conservation efforts have given many a lot of hope, so much so that India has begun sharing their techniques and strategies with other countries to help them ideally increase declining tiger populations.

tiktok

US House Of Representatives Banned From Using TikTok On Their Electronic Devices 

According to an internal notice sent to the staff of the House of Representatives – obtained by CNN from the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer – TikTok has been banned from any and all electronic devices used and owned by members of the House of Representatives and prospective staff.

The notice stated that the app must be uninstalled from any House mobile device if it’s already installed. This is due to the government’s view of TikTok being a “high risk to users due to a number of security risks.” 

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The US government has also been in talks to ban TikTok from all federal devices in the near future. This ban is a part of a piece of legislation included in the omnibus bill recently signed by President Joe Biden. More than a dozen states throughout the US have also already implemented their own restrictions and prohibitions on TikTok on government devices.

While TikTok hasn’t made any official comment regarding this recent ban on House devices, the company previously stated that the government’s moves to ban the app is a “political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests.”

One of the biggest concerns coming from lawmakers regarding TikTok involves the social media app’s parent company, ByteDance. 

US policymakers are concerned about national security and the risk of the Chinese government pressuring either TikTok or its parent company into acquiring, using, and sharing personal information specifically from its US users. 

This information is thought to be potentially used for Chinese intelligence operations or the sharing of disinformation backed by China’s government. 

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While there hasn’t been any direct instances or attempts of these security breaches occurring, the platform did confirm last week that four employees were fired for accessing user data on TikTok from two journalists. 

The battle between the US government and TikTok has been ongoing since 2020, when the app truly began rising in popularity; partially due to the pandemic and quarantine restrictions that left citizens at home yearning for entertainment. 

Both the government and the platform have been working on negotiations to resolve any potential national security risks so that the app can continue to be used by US citizens. 

“The potential agreement under review covers key concerns around corporate governance, content recommendation and moderation, and data security and access,” TikTok has stated

For now, the US government is moving forward with its plans to ban the social media platform from all government used/connected devices, with the potential for wider bans to be implemented in the future.

flu

How To Stay Healthy Against The Flu And Covid-19 This Fall 

According to reports from a Salt Lake City newspaper, doctors are gearing up for a severe flu season in the coming months after Australia’s season just ended. The US often looks at Australia to predict what the states might experience during a typical flu season. 

Australia reported 300 deaths and 1,700 hospitalizations brought on by influenza season this year. Kencee graves, an associate professor of internal medicine, noted that Utah specifically hasn’t seen major flu outbreaks within the past two years, however, that doesn’t mean other states shouldn’t relax health and safety precautions as the winter season approaches. 

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In 2021, Australia experienced no deaths and very little hospitalizations brought on by the flu, so the major increase in cases this year was unexpected. 

“That is what makes us in the U.S. a little concerned about how severe this flu season could be. That makes this year an important one to get the flu vaccine,” Graves said.

Doctors typically recommend getting a flu shot before Halloween, as flu season officially starts in October in the US, and continues into March, according to Graves. 

Graves also explained that it’s typically okay for one to get a flu and Covid-19 vaccine at the same time, but if you’re an individual who tends to have a severe reaction to vaccines, you should get both doses at different times to allow your body to adjust. 

“A person’s primary series of the vaccine provides immunity to COVID-19, then follow-up boosters add to that immunity. The original boosters were targeted against the original strain of SARS-CoV-2,” Dr. Hannah Imlay, assistant professor of internal medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Utah Health, told KSL

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“But successive waves of different variants have swept across the world, and vaccines don’t target them as well. They do protect against severe disease and death. But the new bivalent booster targets current variants as well as the ancestral strain,” she explained.

Imlay also expressed that people who have received previous Covid-19 boosters should remain well protected, but it’s important to note that “the new bivalent boosters are authorized to be taken at least two months after one’s most recent vaccine dose, regardless of how many boosters a person received.” 

“Spacing out one’s vaccine doses and infection helps increase protection against the disease. If you’ve had a recent COVID-19 infection, it may be best to wait at least three months before receiving the bivalent booster. You’ve got a lot of immune priming from your infection, you get a lot of immune priming from your most recent vaccine dose, so wait some time before getting the bivalent booster,” Imlay recommends. 

The US is still very much coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Imlay there’s an average of 70,000 new cases and 500 deaths a day throughout the nation. 

“That said, a lot of policy decisions and choices that we as a population have made has really transitioned this to being a large-scale public health response to a response that hopefully is more sustainable and kind of has turned to the endemic model, the country will continue to see high numbers of cases,” she explained.

google

More Than 600 Google Employees Demand Abortion Care Protections

More than 650 Google workers have signed a petition lobbying for the company to create policies that would protect and provide support for employees and consumers seeking abortion care.