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YouTube is testing removal of the ‘dislike’ counter on videos

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YouTube is testing removal of the 'dislike' counter on videos

YouTube is trialing a new feature: positivity.

The video-sharing platform said Wednesday that some users may find the number of “dislikes” associated with their content now hidden. The move comes “in response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns,” YouTube said.

Videos will continue to provide a “dislike” button for viewers, and the number of clicks is still being tallied on the backend, the company clarified, but the counter will not be displayed to the public. YouTube hopes that the change will engender more goodwill as cyberbullies will no longer be emboldened by amassing dislikes on their target’s content.

“In response to creator feedback around well-being and targeted dislike campaigns, we’re testing a few new designs that don’t show the public dislike count,” YouTube said via Twitter, adding that those included in the “small experiment” might notice that the number that usually appears below the thumbs-down icon is missing.

“Creators, you’ll still be able to see the exact number of likes and dislikes in YouTube Studio,” they continued. “For viewers, if you’re in the experiment, you can still like or dislike a video to share feedback with creators and help tune the recommendations you see on YouTube.”

YouTube garnered support from some 27,000 who “liked” the tweet. Still, many criticized the move as a disservice to viewers, and an insubstantial effort to improve the battered psyche of bullied creators.

“‘GUYS we’re going to SOLVE BULLYING by making it so that ONLY the victim can tell they’re being bullied! It’s GENIUS.’,” one Twitter user mocked.

“This isn’t helpful. Your[e] not fixing creator feedback, your[e] limiting user judgment,” said one critic, whose response was liked by 1,200 on Twitter. “As a user I need to be able to see what the ratio of a video is so I can see if it’s worth the time to watch or if I should move on to another video.”

Some in the thread have speculated that a number of videos uploaded by the White House during President Joe Biden’s administration were, in fact, the subject of a “targeted dislike campaign.” In contrast, footage shared by Donald Trump’s White House has received a suspiciously inflated ratio of “likes” to “dislikes.” This, according to one follower, may have inspired YouTube to attempt to restore balance.

Earlier this month, another social-video platform, TikTok, rolled out a number of new features to “foster kindness and community,” they claimed. The changes include an option for users to “filter” comments, allowing for more control over which comments appear beneath the clip.

The app also added a prompt for commenters to “reconsider posting a comment that may be inappropriate or unkind.”

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US agency says women can get abortion pill via telemedicine

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US agency says women can get abortion pill via telemedicine

WASHINGTON — Women seeking an abortion pill will not be required to visit a doctor’s office or clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic, US health officials said Tuesday in the latest reversal in an ongoing legal battle over the medication.

The Food and Drug Administration announced the policy change in a letter to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one of several medical groups that has sued over the restriction put in place under the Trump administration.

The FDA’s acting head, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said an agency review of recent studies “do not appear to show increases in serious safety concerns,” when women take the pill without first visiting a health facility and discussing the drug’s potential risks, including internal bleeding.ADVERTISEMENT

The change clears the way for women to get a prescription for the pill — mifepristone — via telemedicine and receive it through the mail. However, abortion opponents are pushing legislation in several Republican-led states that would head off easier access.

Medication abortion has been available in the United States since 2000, when the FDA approved the use of mifepristone. Taken with a hormone blocker called misoprostol, it constitutes the so-called abortion pill. About 40% of all abortions in the US are now done through medication — rather than surgery — and that option has become more pivotal during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the FDA waived in-person requirements for virtually all medications, including tightly controlled drugs such as methadone. But the FDA and its parent health agency argued the rules were necessary to ensure the pills were used safely. The rule requires patients to pick up the single tablet of mifepristone at a hospital, clinic or medical office and sign a form that includes information about the medication’s potential risks.

The obstetricians and gynecologists group sued to overturn the rule, setting off a series of conflicting court decisions. Most recently, in January, the Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration to reinstate the longstanding rule on getting the drug in person.

The obstetricians group said in a statement Tuesday the FDA’s about-face on the requirement shows “it is arbitrary and does nothing to bolster the safety of an already-safe medicine.”

But abortion opponents said the move would jeopardize women’s health.

“With this action, the Biden administration has made it clear that they will prioritize abortion over women’s safety,” said Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion group March for Life. “Chemical abortions should have more medical oversight, not less.”

The FDA policy only applies during the COVID-19 health emergency. The obstetricians and gynecologists group and several other medical organizations are pushing to make medication abortion permanently available via online prescribing and mail-order pharmacies.

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U.S. senators match House bill to assist Uighur refugees

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U.S. senators match House bill to assist Uighur refugees

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan pair of US senators on Tuesday introduced a bill to expedite refugee applications from Uyghurs, matching an effort in the House of Representatives to assist members of the largely Muslim ethnic group who advocates say face persecution in China.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) put forward the “Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act,” which would grant Priority 2 refugee status to Uyghurs and other groups, including Kazakhs and Kyrgyz, who have faced repression in or fled from China’s Xinjiang region.

Priority 2 status would allow hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Uyghurs to forgo a United Nations referral and apply directly as refugees to the US government, reducing concerns that Beijing could be notified by a third country and seek their deportation to China.

China denies abuses, but the United States has declared that Beijing is perpetrating a genocide.

“The United States must continue to speak out against the PRC’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and we must also provide assurance and protection for the Uyghurs and all those facing persecution as a result of their religious or ethnic identity,” Coons said in a statement, referring to the People’s Republic of China, the country’s formal name.

The Senate bill, complementing a House version put forward in March, has Republicans and Democrats increasingly optimistic that the refugee upgrade could become law, even as Congress forges ahead with a sweeping package of other legislation to counter China’s influence.

“From a substantive perspective, the endgame here is extremely similar,” one Senate aide, comparing the Senate and House bills, told Reuters. “We see this as an area of easy bipartisan support.”

UN experts and human rights groups estimate that more than 1 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been detained in harsh conditions in Xinjiang as part of what Beijing calls a vocational training campaign to battle terrorism.

The bill also encourages US partners and allies to make refugee accommodations for Uyghurs.

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15% of Americans worse off a year into pandemic

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15% of Americans worse off a year into pandemic

While most Americans have weathered the pandemic financially, about 38 million say they are worse off now than before the outbreak began in the US.

Overall, 55 percent of Americans say their financial circumstances are about the same now as a year ago and 30 percent say their finances have improved, according to a new poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But 15 percent say they are worse off.

The problem is more pronounced at lower-income levels: 29 percent of Americans living below the federal poverty line say their personal finances worsened in the past year. Roughly that many also find themselves in a deepening financial hole, saying they struggled to pay bills in the past three months.

Britney Frick, 27, is among those whose finances have taken a hit. She worked as a substitute teacher before the pandemic but her role was eliminated. Initially, she found a telecommunications job that allowed her to work from home, but the hours began to dwindle then dried up altogether.

Frick ended up unemployed for six months but was able to get by using her savings, reduced rent and help from her parents.

“I am slowly getting back on my feet but am nowhere near where I was before COVID,” she said.

Frick got a job at a daycare in March and the steady work is helping her rebuild her financial picture.

“I am still living paycheck to paycheck but at least the paycheck is covering the bills,” she said. “But I am happy to be back at work honestly and happy that things are kind of returning to normal.”

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy — the United States still has 8.4 million fewer jobs than it had in February 2020, just before the pandemic struck.

The government has passed three major relief bills in response, which included direct economic relief payments to individuals. That has helped ease the suffering of some.

The latest round of government payments — $1,400 to individuals — were sent out beginning last month. Households, on average, are using, or plan to use about one-third of the money to pay down debt, about 25 percent on spending and put the rest into savings, according to a report released last week from the New York Federal reserve. That closely mirrored spending of prior relief payments.

Overall, the Impact Genome/AP-NORC poll found 52 percent of Americans say they were able to save money for most of the past three months, while 37 percent broke even and 10 percent were short on paying bills. Among Americans living below the poverty line, 29 percent say they struggled to pay bills recently, while just 16 percent have saved. By comparison, 61 percent of those living far above the poverty line say they have been able to save.

There also are wide racial disparities, with 57 percent of white Americans, 47 percent of Hispanics and just 39 percent of Black Americans saying they have saved recently. Black and Hispanic Americans are about twice as likely as white Americans to say they have come up short on bill payments.

Andrew Holland said his family’s finances were fairly steady for most of the pandemic. The California resident worked as a hospice nurse and case manager and his wife kept her job with a refinery. But the stress and isolation of the pandemic led him to reconsider his work.

Unlike before the pandemic, he had no in-person interaction with colleagues or friends to relieve some of the pressure of his job. So he quit and found a new job in hospice care with fewer hours. His wife also got a new job with better pay.

While their family finances took a temporary hit and they spent some savings, he expects to recover. Holland and his wife have started tracking their spending more closely and are now planning for an earlier retirement.

“This really made me look at what do I want to do and when do I want to do it,” Holland, 35, said. “I feel incredibly lucky that the worst that happened is I lost a month’s of wages and got a job with fewer hours.”

The poll found many Americans — nearly a third — had not had investment or similar long-term savings accounts set up even before the pandemic. Another 19 percent say they have been able to add more to investments like a 401(k) or a college savings plan and 38 percent say the amount hasn’t changed compared to last year.

Holland said he is disheartened by the inequality of how the pandemic has played out for people and is concerned the imbalance will never be corrected.

“I am glad that it gave me the push to look at my finances and plan a little bit more for the future,” Holland said. “I definitely wish it had come at a much lower cost for the world as whole.”

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