Enlarge ImageEA is taking harassment more seriously. James Martin/CNET When Amira Virgil is playing the world-building game The Sims, she likes to craft different characters, create houses for them and tell stories about their lives.She’s well known within the player community of Electronic Arts’ game, in part because she created modifications that gave characters more racially diverse skin tones and hair. She also started a website for people to share their own mods and other creations, called The Black Simmer. Often, she’s streaming a live broadcast of her play online, sharing her Sims exploits with hundreds of fans under the username Xmiramira. But every once in a while, people join her stream to cause trouble. Enlarge ImageThe Sims world-building game is one of the most popular video games ever made, with more than 200 million copies sold. Electronic Arts One way they do that is to change their username to include racially charged language when they leave comments while she’s streaming. They’d include words “like ghetto, N-word and slurs,” she said.Virgil isn’t alone.Which is why EA held its first large-scale meeting, called the Building Healthy Communities Summit, with 230 gaming influencers it calls Game Changers who it flew in to the meeting to discuss the problem.Sitting in the conference room nestled in the Loews Hollywood Hotel ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, in Los Angeles, EA’s head of community engagement, Adam Tanielian, asked the roomful of influencers whether any of them had seen or been the target of bullying or harassment online. Nearly every hand shot up.”It’s a really crappy thing,” Tanielian said. Over the next three hours, EA outlined how it plans to combat this issue. It’s going to start releasing regular reports about the health of its online communities. It’s going to offer new tools to players to help tamp down on toxicity. And it’s going to bring together a council of players to regularly discuss these issues and what the company can do about it.EA said it also wants to inspire its players to help make change, too. That includes hearing about positive behavior from influencers they look up to. “You guys have a lot of power to try to solve some of these issues, or at least provide solutions,” Tanielian said.The company’s efforts come at a time when the video game industry is larger and more influential than ever. Its worldwide sales topped $137.9 billion last year, according to data from industry watcher Newzoo, more than music and movies combined. Online communities, such as the more than 250 million people who’ve signed up to play the hit online battle game Fortnite, are swelling with millions of players.Maintaining those large networks of gamers playing together has caused many companies to rethink the way they approach the lives people lead in the worlds they’ve created.Enlarge ImageEA’s Chris Bruzzo said the company feels a responsibility to work on these issues. James Martin/CNET In the past, companies largely left players to sort themselves out. But now, with multiplayer aspects of games like EA’s Battlefield war simulation franchise growing in popularity alongside gaming social networks like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, companies say they’re compelled to start influencing the culture of players in their games for the better.”There was a period of time where it was accepted — that’s how games are,” said Chris Bruzzo, EA’s head of marketing, who also helped head up its healthy communities summit. “We’ve started to hear more and more from players that this wasn’t something they wanted to tolerate anymore.”Of course, harassment and bullying are pervasive on social networking. And EA isn’t the only gaming company attempting to tackle these issues. In May, Microsoft posted its community standards, and committed to more moderation tools to help people avoid toxic players. Ubisoft, ahead of its E3 press conference Monday, played a video of the rapper and actor Ice-T talking about how to handle gaming online.”Video games are for everyone, and we need to keep a safe environment for the enjoyment of all, but not everyone’s cool like that,” he said. Tags Yves Guillemot, CEO of Ubisoft, said the company has been more actively discussing these issues in part because he feels it’s part of the company’s responsibility when creating online games that connect players.”Because our games are more and more social, we want those games to be safe. We want people to come in and feel good,” he said. “It is our job to make sure it’s as safe as possible.” There are also organizations like the Fair Play Alliance, a collection of companies working to encourage healthy communities. And there are anti-bullying nonprofits such as Ditch The Label, which EA supports financially, that promote equality and study the effects of toxic behavior.”Bullying is real, and it has real and devastating consequences,” said Liam Hackett, head of Ditch The Label, who spoke at the event. He said Ditch The Label’s data found that one in 10 victims of bullying has considered suicide and that one in five people has quit a game because of how they’re treated by other players. Bullying is real, and it has real and devastating consequences. Liam Hackett, head of Ditch The Label Now playing: Watch this: E3 2019 Aug 3 • E3 journalists see their personal info exposed by security flaw Aug 19 • Borderlands 3: FL4K, new endgame content and everything else we know Our E3 breakdown: Microsoft’s Project Scarlett looks… “It’s already hard enough being a content creator,” she said. But she’s often had to narrow her focus on playing with her community, rather than entering public matches for video games like Activision Blizzard’s popular multiplayer shooting game Overwatch, because of the environment she encounters. “I don’t want to deal with the racism, sexism and general toxicity that comes with being in the gaming space,” she said. As much as influencers might be able to help, she added, companies like EA and platforms like YouTube need to actively help solve some of these issues too.”It’s up to them to them to foster and create environments, and better to moderate the situations that we encounter on a day-to-day basis,” Virgil said. “It’s up to them, because there’s only so much we can do.” Jul 26 • Doom Eternal: QuakeCon ‘Year of Doom’ keynote shows more ‘Battlemode’ action 4:22 Brittney Brombacher, co-founder of the podcast What’s Good Games, said at EA’s event that bad behavior can also build on itself and affect the community. “Toxicity breeds toxicity,” she said.An increasing number of companies are taking notice. Last week, YouTube said it would take away advertising from the conservative personality Steven Crowder for using homophobic slurs against journalist Carlos Maza, a writer and video host at Vox. And some advertisers said they would no longer run ads on at least two gaming YouTube channels whose criticism and personal attacks went against their “strict” guidelines for advertising placement. Looking to the communityEA knows a thing or two about online behavior. The company’s run afoul of gamers many times.When EA began promoting its World War II-inspired shooting game Battlefield V last year, players immediately seized on the promotional materials that featured a woman on the cover. It wasn’t historically accurate to show a woman on the front lines, critics said. When the company stood up to them, saying don’t buy it if you don’t like it, the backlash grew got even worse. Ultimately, the game’s sales underperformed expectations despite a positive reception among some critics.EA was criticized for putting a woman on the cover while promoting Battlefield V, a World War II-inspired game. EA It’d be easy to dismiss EA’s Building Healthy Communities Summit as a knee-jerk reaction to all that. After all, EA’s sales and usage of its games are tied to customers being happy. Any effort to help everyone be nicer to one another could be dismissed as self-serving.But Bruzzo said it’s more than that. A player at a competitive event for EA’s Madden NFL football series shot and killed one of his competitors last year. Bruzzo said the company realized it didn’t just need to make sure the events were safe, but also to make sure there was mental health support for players too.”On the empathy side, there is work to be done,” he said. There are no clear answers yet. During a breakout discussion about research EA had done around the impacts of disruptive player behavior, attendees grappled with how involved any company should be in these issues and where the line should be drawn between banter, trash talk and hurtful actions. Some attendees said they’re frustrated by incessant harassment by other players. Some people in particular try to undermine them in a game, such as by accusing them of cheating. Some attendees said they’re targeted by disruptive players in an effort to make them look bad during a live stream.”Disruptive behavior doesn’t just disrupt the game, it disrupts people’s actual life,” said Andy Castell a 25-year-old gaming YouTuber from the UK who’s part of EA’s Game Changers influencer program. He often makes videos about playing EA’s FIFA soccer game at his channel, AJ3, which has nearly 1.5 million subscribers. “It’s obviously very important to create as positive an environment as possible in the game.”Castell said he hasn’t struggled too much with disruptive behavior himself, but he can see why it’s a problem. Solving this issue, he said, will take a delicate community discussion that doesn’t come off as paternalistic. “It’s hard in the environment that social media currently is, because you look like someone on a high horse trying to tell everyone they’re wrong, and people will take offense to it,” Castell said. “It does feel like the world’s playing catchup to this beast that’s just running out of control.”Finding solutionsFor now, EA’s focused on starting conversations. It held the Building Healthy Communities Summit ahead of E3 with its Game Changers influencers, and it made those commitments to releasing research and building tools to fight toxicity. It also plans to meet with other companies to swap ideas and to work with gamers themselves to come up with features and rules to help reduce these issues.”It’s going to be challenging to expect any one of the companies in this space will be able to ‘solve it,'” Bruzzo said.Virgil, of The Black Simmer, said she hopes this represents EA’s first steps toward seeking out more diverse perspectives — and not just from its player base but in its employee ranks as well. I don’t want to deal with the racism, sexism and general toxicity that comes with being in the gaming space. Amira Virgil, The Black Simmer reading • Gaming can be toxic toward women and minorities. Electronic Arts wants to help fix that • See All Aug 28 • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order trailer, gameplay footage and everything we know Culture Tech Industry Gaming Comments 22 E3 2019 Share your voice Activision Electronic Arts (EA) Microsoft
FacebookA journalist working with a Malayalam newspaper was killed after his bike was hit by a car allegedly driven by Sriram Venkataraman, an IAS officer from Kerala. The incident happened at midnight in Thiruvananthapuram. Several regional media outlets reported eyewitness claims that the IAS officer was completely drunk during the time of the accident.According to eyewitnesses, Venkataraman was at the wheel at the time of the accident. He was accompanied by a lady passenger. At around 01.35 AM, the car hit the bike and skidded to the wall of a public office. The journalist, KM Basheer, who works with ‘Siraj’, died instantly after sustaining serious head injuries. Shafeeq, an auto driver who was apparently present at the time of the accident, revealed that Venkataraman was drunk. “After the car hit the two-wheeler, a man came out from the driving seat. He was in a drunken state and his car was running at high speed,” he said, according to the Indian Express. It has been reported that the police did not subject Venkataraman or his friend to a medical examination. Instead, they booked a prepaid cab and sent the woman home. Venkataraman, who had some injuries on his hand, was later admitted to the general hospital. However, police officers did not insist on collecting the blood samples of the IAS officer even after doctors informed them that he was under the influence of alcohol.It was on August 01 that Sriram Venkataraman got posted as the Director of Survey and Land Records. The accident has already created an uproar on social media. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said the police plan to arrest the IAS officer.Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala have condoled the death of the journalist.
US Sen. Sessions is sworn in to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing to become US attorney general on Capitol Hill in Washington. Photo: ReutersJeff Sessions, while still a US senator, spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador, encounters he did not disclose when asked during his confirmation hearing to become attorney general about possible contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing Justice Department officials.One of the meetings was a private conversation between Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that took place in September in the senator’s office, at the height of what US intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the US presidential race, the Post reported.The previously undisclosed discussions could fuel new congressional calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s alleged role in the 2016 presidential election, the Post said.Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was fired last month after he discussed US sanctions on Russia with Kislyak before Trump took office and misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.As attorney general, Sessions oversees the Justice Department, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which have been leading investigations into Russian meddling and any links to Trump’s associates. Sessions has so far resisted calls to recuse himself.When Sessions spoke with Kislyak in July and September, he was a senior member of the influential Senate Armed Services Committee as well as one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers, according to the Post.Sessions played a prominent role supporting Trump after formally joining the campaign in February 2016.At his 10 Jan Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Democratic Senator Al Franken what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign, the Post reported.“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded, according to the Post. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions and did not remember in detail what he discussed with Kislyak, according to the Post.“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” Sarah Isgur Flores, Sessions’ spokeswoman, told the Post.The Department of Justice and the White House did not respond immediately to requests by Reuters for comment.Justice officials said Sessions met with Kislyak on 8 Sept in his capacity as a member of the armed services panel rather than in his role as a Trump campaign surrogate, the Post reported.“He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign – not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee,” Flores told the Post.
At least 10 people have died and thousands of shanty homes have been destroyed by monsoon rains in overcrowded Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh’s southeast, officials said Sunday.Bangladesh’s meteorological department said the Cox’s Bazar district — home to nearly one million Rohingya Muslims who have fled a military crackdown in Myanmar — has seen at least 58.5 centimetres (nearly two feet) of rain since 2 July.An International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokeswoman said heavy rains triggered mudslides in the refugee camps — which are mostly built on hill-slopes — destroying some 4,889 tarpaulin and bamboo shacks in the first two weeks of July.More than 200 landslides have been reported since April in the camps, built near the border with Myanmar, and at least 10 people were killed, a UN report said, adding nearly 50,000 people have been affected.In the last week alone, two Rohingya minors died and another 6,000 people were left without shelter because of heavy rains.The UN said the schooling of some 60,000 children had been interrupted with over 750 learning centres partially damaged and five heavily damaged.Displaced refugees said they were suffering as rain disrupted logistics and daily activity in the camps.”It’s tough to go to food distribution centres by wading through a swamp of mud,” Nurun Jan, a Rohingya refugee, told AFP.”Rains and gusty wind have made our life miserable.”Refugees also described a shortage of drinking water and a looming health crisis due to flooded toilets, which foster disease outbreaks.World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Gemma Snowdon said they had to significantly increase assistance in the camps to cope up with the monsoon.”So far 11,400 people have required the extra food assistance due to the heavy rains, compared to 7,000 during the whole of July 2018,” she said.Last year the UN refugee agency moved 30,000 Rohingya out of areas considered at high risk of landslides and floods.Heavy rains frequently trigger flooding and landslides in Bangladesh’s southeastern hill districts, and in 2017 at least 170 people were killed.Some 740,000 Rohingya fled a military crackdown in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017, joining about 200,000 already living in camps in Bangladesh.Officials said landslides were increasing in the region because forests had been cleared to make way for the sprawling Rohingya camps. One of the settlements, Kutupalong, is now the world’s largest refugee centre.Refugee homes are particularly susceptible to damage or destruction because Bangladeshi authorities will only allow them to be built with tarpaulin, twine, bamboo, or other flimsy materials to maintain the “temporary” character of the camp, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).A senior Bangladesh official told AFP the government has barred permanent structures as they hope the refugees will eventually return home.Bangladesh wants to relocate up to 100,000 refugees to Bhashan Char, a remote island in the Bay of Bengal, but this is opposed by the Rohingya and international rights groups.Dhaka says any relocation to the island would be voluntary.
Zapping the brains of people over 60 with a mild electrical current can improve a form of memory – enough to make them perform like 20-year-olds – scientists say. Someday, people might visit clinics to boost that ability, which declines both in normal ageing and in dementias like Alzheimer’s disease, said Robert Reinhart, researcher at Boston University in the US. The treatment is aimed at “working memory,” the ability to hold information in mind for a matter of seconds as you perform a task, such as doing math in your head. Also Read – Add new books to your shelfSometimes called the workbench or scratchpad of the mind, it’s crucial for things like taking medications, paying bills, buying groceries or planning, Reinhart said in a statement. The study is not the first to show that stimulating the brain can boost working memory. The research, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, showed success in older people and because the memory boost persisted for nearly an hour minimum after the brain stimulation ended. Also Read – Over 2 hours screen time daily will make your kids impulsive”It’s a superb first step” toward demonstrating a way to improve mental performance, said Barry Gordon, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. More research is needed before it can be formally tested as a treatment, researchers said. The electrical current was administered through a tight-fitting cap that also monitored each subject’s brainwaves. For study participants, that current felt like a slight tingling, itching or poking sensation under the electrodes for about 30 seconds, Reinhart said. The researchers’ idea was to improve communication between the brain’s prefrontal cortex in the front and the temporal cortex on the left side, because the rhythms of activity in those two regions had fallen out of sync with each other. So the researchers applied the current to those two regions to nudge the activity cycles back into a matching pattern. The results provided new evidence that a breakdown in that communication causes the loss of working memory with age, Reinhart said. Part of the study included 42 participants in their 20s, plus 42 others aged 60 to 76. First they were tested on a measure of working memory. It involved viewing an image such as a harmonica or broken egg on a computer screen, then a blank screen for three seconds, and then a second image that was either identical to the first or slightly modified.
Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goals Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. 5 min read The scourge of viruses, Trojans and other malware has long been a familiar foe for desktop PC users. As iPhone users in China recently discovered, these digital nasties are no longer confined to traditional computers and are already a very real threat to the security of mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets and wearables.Few smartphone owners seem to realize this risk, despite the fact that our smartphones have become a veritable treasure trove of digital booty — photos, passwords, emails and texts, location data and more. To enterprising malware engineers, scammers and bad actors, sneaking into a smartphone may be the ultimate jackpot. Consumers aren’t without options, however, and taking a few quick and easy precautions vastly decreases the risk of becoming a victim.Related: How to Protect Your Apple Devices From Getting Hacked Right Now1. A need for consumer awarenessBecause of their unique status as a digital catch-all, and the fact that smartphones are often used in locations that lack traditional safeguards such as firewalls, smartphones actually require more protective measures from malicious interlopers than PCs.And yet last year’s State of the Net by Consumer Reports found that just 7 percent of mobile phone owners use any form of encryption and little more than a third even bother using a PIN. That’s a terrible track record. No wonder then that McAfee Labs recorded a jump of malware samples on mobile devices by nearly 50 percent in just the first quarter of this year2. Apps too eager to ask permissionWhile the volume of malware is certainly alarming, what’s of particular concern is the manner in which it gets onto devices. In particular malware writers have begun targeting apps directly rather than going after devices. The result is that users blindly trust app stores and install apps that have been compromised, unwittingly infecting themselves in the process.This is made effective in large part due to overly aggressive apps that require far too many permissions to access user and device data than is logical or necessary. Take for example flashlight apps that needlessly demand the ability to perform a host of unwanted functions, like the ability to delete apps, track your location and even fiddle with your phone’s software. Games are the most popular downloads on app stores, and as a category are notoriously pushy with permissions that needlessly put users at risk.3. Desperate times call for commonsense measures.There is, unfortunately, no completely foolproof way of foiling all the malware all of the time. But by using a few simple and sensible precautions the vast majority of risks can be averted.Related: 4 Types of Mobile Monsters and What We Can Learn From Their Horror Stories4. Regularly update your phone’s software.The easiest, and most effective step you can take to protect your personal data is to install the periodic updates to your smartphone’s software. Besides adding features, they typically include crucial security fixes you won’t be able to get otherwise.5. Turn on provided security features such as device encryption and locate and lock.Your phone comes with a comprehensive array of free security tools. Enable them, and be familiar with their use such as how to locate a lost device and lock or even wipe it clean of data remotely.6. Be mindful of permissions.When you install an app, you grant it access to various types of information on your device, such as your contacts, your photos or your location. Before installing an app, look at the permissions it asks for and decline if it’s needlessly aggressive — why does that restaurant review app need access to your photos, for instance?7. Stick with official app stores.While malware-laden apps have on occasion slipped past the guards, consumers are far more protected from installing malicious apps and services when patronizing app stores from the big players — Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft — than ones from third-party stores or sites that aren’t accountable to anyone.8. Resist clicking on unknown links in texts and emails.Just like you would with oddball links in email messages, don’t click on a hyperlink in a text or email unless it’s from someone you know — and you’re expecting it. Better yet, protect yourself further by going into your settings on your mobile phone and turning off auto-download for MMS (multimedia) messages to prevent your phone from installing anything without asking first.Our mobile devices give us unprecedented connectivity, productivity and convenience. However, with cybercriminals ramping up their mobile skills, now more than ever, we need to be mindful of the risks and take the appropriate steps to protect ourselves as we enjoy the convenience they enable. Related: Apple Says It’s Cleaning Up the App Store After Its First Large-Scale Malware Attack Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. January 4, 2016 Register Now »