On average, men at Apple’s U.K. operations earn 5 percent more than women, the company revealed on Tuesday, a day ahead of a deadline for British companies over 250 people to disclose their gender gaps. AppleInsider – Frontpage News
Certain breakthroughs always seem just out of scientists’ reach.
Warp drive. Scalable fusion reactors.
And, of course, a male birth control pill.
This week, yet another team of researchers raised the hopes of reproductively responsible men everywhere claiming they’d developed a safe and effective once-a-day male birth control pill.
However, guys shouldn’t toss their condoms just yet. While this drug seems promising, it’s still a long way from the local pharmacy.
Stephanie Page, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, presented her team’s research into the male birth control pill, called dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU), at the annual Endocrine Society meeting in Chicago.
Once a day, for 28 days, each of the 100 men between age 18 and 50 ingested either a placebo or DMAU in one of three doses. On the first and last days of the study, each man gave blood samples so the researchers could determine his hormone and cholesterol levels.
According to the study, the men who took the highest dose, 400 mg, showed a “marked suppression” of testosterone levels, as well as the levels of two hormones needed to produce sperm. The researchers claim these hormone responses are “consistent with effective contraception.” That is, it would probably work as birth control.
Every subject in the trial passed all safety tests, and very few reported any symptoms traditionally linked to too much or too little testosterone, Page said in a press release. They had problems with sexual function and no mood changes, either, she noted during the presentation.
However, each man taking DMAU did gain weight and had lower levels of HDL cholesterol (that’s the “good” kind).
This isn’t the first experimental male contraceptive to have these side effects. Typically, drugs like these have two major problems: the oral testosterone they contain damages the liver, and the drugs leave the body too quickly — men would need to take the pills at least twice a day for them to be effective.
DMAU actually addresses those issues. To the first point: the dimethandrolone in DMAU is a testosterone modified to eliminate liver toxicity. And the second: the long-chain fatty acid undecanoate ensures the drug stays in the user’s system for a full 24 hours.
So, that’s the good news. The bad news is this was a super small study. 100 men, reduced to 83 by the end of the brief 28 days of the study, is hardly grounds for an FDA approval. Still, Page claims the team is currently conducting longer-term DMAU studies.
Even more reason to take the findings with a grain of salt: the team’s research has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Until other members of the scientific community have a chance to pick apart the study and verify its methods and conclusions, DMAU will remain just another in the long list of potential male birth control pills.
No one can say Sudan, a northern white rhino, didn’t live a full life. He was the subject of countless works of art. Famous actresses and heads of state traveled across the globe to meet him. He even had his own Tinder profile.
But Sudan’s death this week, at the ripe old age of 45, is tragic for another reason: He was the last living male of his subspecies.
When Sudan was born, in 1973, researchers believe he was one of about 500 northern white rhinos. By the mid-80s, poaching slashed that number to about 30. After a slight recovery around the start of the twenty-first century, the population soon dwindled further, down to just eight in 2007, and then three in 2015.
In 2009, his caretakers moved him from the Czech Republic to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, in the hope that an environment more like his natural habitat would prompt Sudan to breed. In his last days, Sudan suffered from age-related health conditions. So on, March 19, veterinarians made the difficult decision to euthanize him.
Sudan leaves behind two female family members: daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu. Neither is healthy enough to carry a birth to term. And they are now the last living northern white rhinos on Earth.
A subspecies reduced to two female rhinos doesn’t bode well for its continued survival.
But all hope isn’t lost. Researchers saved the sperm from Sudan, and from four other male northern white rhinos before they died. And they think they might be able to produce a calf via in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Here’s the plan. First, the researchers would fertilize one of the female rhino’s eggs with the frozen sperm. The team could then use a female of a closely related species, the southern white rhino, as a surrogate.
Najin and Fatu have a limited number of eggs, so that might not work. But there are other options for saving the species. Scientists could potentially transform northern white rhino skin cells into stem cells. After that, they could coax those stem cells into eggs. They’d then fertilize those the same way they would if they came from Najin and Fatu.
Since the last two remaining northern white rhinos are closely related, we’d need some way to diversify the subspecies if we did hope to regenerate the population. The stem cell option would help with that, as scientists could transform any samples from any of the deceased rhinos into eggs or sperm.
Some conservationists argue we’d be better off spending that money elsewhere. We’re in the midst of a mass extinction in which dozens of species go extinct every day. What makes the northern white rhino so special that we bring it back from extinction?
Some scientists think Earth has a “boundary for biodiversity.” Genetic diversity helps the planet cope with change, they claim. Too few species, and the Earth loses this ability. Ultimately, biodiversity loss could jeopardize humanity’s “safe operating space” on Earth, Johan Rockström, the executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, told The Guardian.
Other researchers think the idea of a biodiversity boundary is nonsense. They argue that species loss is more of a slow burn, degrading ecosystems over time.
So, on one hand, the extinction of the northern white rhino could put us one step closer to a “tipping point” of sorts that leads to the end of humanity. On the other, it could contribute to the planet’s ecological death by a thousand cuts.
Neither option sounds great. But if charismatic species like the northern white rhino result in real action, perhaps we’ll never have to find out which is right.
While contraceptives available today certainly have limitations, there are far more options available to women than there are to men. Now, a possible solution to this shortage of male birth control options has emerged from a rather unexpected source: a heart-stopping poison daubed on arrows as far back as the 3rd century BC by hunters and warriors in Eastern Africa.
Let that sink in a minute while we take a tour of what’s currently on the market.
On the other hand, non-hormonal options, such as condoms or the diaphragm, don’t come with those scary side effects. They are, however, not always convenient, or available, and how well they work largely depends on whether or not they’re being used consistently — and correctly.
The options for women may not be overwhelmingly great, but they have more of them. There are currently just two contraceptive options for men: condoms or a vasectomy. That could be soon to change, though, because there are a few hormonal options in development — one of which has reached clinical trials.
It’s not the one with the poison arrows, however.
That potential option is the brainchild of a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota. The team has been researching a non-hormonal alternative that would work by making it more difficult for sperm to move or swim. After all, sperm can’t fertilize an egg unless they can get to it.
How are they obstructing the sperm’s mission, you ask? A toxic substance found in African plants known as ouabain. Believe it or not, many mammals actually produce the substance naturally (albeit in very low qualities) and scientists think it plays a role in regulating blood pressure. In fact, doctors sometimes give the substance in very small doses to patients who have heart arrhythmias.
Ouabain works well as a poison because it interferes with protein subunits in the heart that transport ions. Your heart beats because of electrical impulses — and if you recall your high school chemistry class, it’s those electrically-charged ions that tell your heart when to contract. Messing with those ions, then, is a cardiac disaster in the making.
What does this heart-stopping poison have to do with sperm, then? The researchers also found that ouabain can interrupt the work of another subunit — transporter subunit α4 — which is only found in one place: mature sperm cells.
The challenge for the team over the last ten years of their research was to find a way to use a derivative of ouabain that would only hone in on those sperm cells, sparing the heart in the process. The other consideration was permanency: what the team figured out was that since ouabain only effects mature sperm cells when its used to inhibit their movement, the effect shouldn’t last forever. In fact, it should be completely reversible because any new sperm cells that are produced once treatment has been stopped should develop normally.
So far, they’ve tested their idea in the lab using rats and found that the derivative they created did make it harder for sperm to move and didn’t have a toxic effect on the heart. The hope now is that this research will lay the necessary groundwork for developing the ouabain derivative into a safe and effective form of male birth control. And, since it doesn’t affect hormones, it may be an option free from the unpleasant side effects often experienced with many current options.
The team will now be moving into the next phase of research: proving that using a 2,000-year-old poison to make it harder for sperm to swim upstream is actually effective at preventing pregnancy. While using an ancient poison to slow-mo the little swimmers is cool, if it turns out they can still lumber their way to an egg and fertilize it, then touting it as a birth control method might be a tad premature.
New studies from the National Institutes of Health — specifically the National Toxicology Program — find that cell phone radiation is potentially linked with certain forms of cancer, but they’re far from conclusive. The results are complex and the studies have yet to be peer-reviewed, but some of the findings are clearly important enough to warrant public discussion. Read More Mobile – TechCrunch
James Damore, a former Google employee and author of a controversial memo questioning whether women were fit to be engineers, is suing the company for discriminating against Caucasians, men, and unpopular political views.
Damore and another ex-Googler, David Gudeman, filed a class action lawsuit against the search giant in Santa Clara Superior Court in Northern California.
“Google employees who expressed views deviating from the majority view at Google on political subjects raised in the workplace and relevant to Google’s employment policies and its business, such as ‘diversity’ hiring policies, ‘bias sensitivity,’ or ‘social justice,’ were/are singled out, mistreated, and systematically punished and terminated from Google, in violation of their legal rights,” their complaint states.
Damore and his fellow plaintiff also went on to claim their former employer “ostracized, belittled and punished” them, and to argue that Google’s diversity hiring policies amounted to a form of “ “invidious discrimination” that worked “to the detriment of Caucasian and male employees.”
Techcrunch reports that the plaintiffs are being represented by Dhillon Law Group which seeks to also represent all Google employees that have been discriminated due to their “perceived conservative political views”, “their male gender”, and “due to their Caucasian race by Google.”
Damore sparked national controversy last August when he circulated an internal memo questioning the effects of diversity programs and suggesting that women may be biologically inferior engineers. He was eventually fired for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” and violating Google’s code of conduct.
“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a staff email after Damore was fired.
“[We] strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate”, Pichai wrote while reminding Google employees that they have an obligation under the company’s code of conduct to “to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”
Pinterest released its latest diversity report on Tuesday.
Slowly but surely, Pinterest is getting more diverse.
The company released its annual workforce diversity report on Tuesday, and claims that underrepresented minorities now make up 9 percent of its workforce, up from just 7 percent in 2016. Pinterest is also hiring more female employees: Women account for 45 percent of Pinterest’s workforce, up from 44 percent last year, according to this latest report.
The data represents advances compared to 2016 government data published earlier this year. And while the changes from year to year may seem small, the company is chipping away at those diversity proportions.
Here’s how Pinterest’s workforce has changed since 2014:
Women make up a larger percentage of Pinterest’s workforce than they did three years ago, and they also claim more technical jobs inside the company, roles that have traditionally been dominated by men. Women still account for 19 percent of Pinterest’s leadership positions, the same percentage the company had in 2014, but up slightly over the past two years.
Underrepresented minorities — people who are black, LatinX or Native American — also make up a larger percentage of Pinterest’s overall workforce. Minority employees make up a larger percentage of Pinterest’s technical and leadership groups than they did three years ago.
Here’s how Pinterest’s diversity report compares to similar reports from other tech companies. Silicon Valley has been making a push over the past few years to diversify the tech industry for a number of reasons, one of which is to bring in employees with a more diverse range of experiences and ideas. As you can see, Pinterest has a higher percentage of female employees than most other Silicon Valley giants.
Candice Morgan, Pinterest’s head of Inclusion & Diversity, says the company has instituted a number of programs in order to increase diversity, including Pinterest’s own version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for top jobs like head coach. Pinterest’s version of the rule requires the company to interview at least one qualified female and underrepresented minority for each senior-level opening.
Pinterest also has an apprenticeship program to encourage candidates from nontraditional tech backgrounds to apply, and requires employees to complete an unconscious-bias training course in their first week on the job.
It’s been a long time since a Star Trek television show felt like it was really going where no one had gone before — or even to relatively infrequently visited places. Although the original 1966 series dared to feature an interracial kiss, the franchise as a whole missed the boat on LGBT representation until it was already mainstream. And between Star Trek: Enterprise and the reboot films, the Trek series has spent the last decade flailing around in lackluster retreads of its own tropes.
But in the November 12th episode “Into the Forest I Go” Star Trek: Discovery explored a subject that few mainstream shows have had the guts to tackle meaningfully: the rape and sexual abuse of men. The subject is even more important amid the current…
Google Assistant is adding a little dimensionality to its voice characterization: The virtual AI companion got an update that adds a voice option called “Voice II” which sounds decidedly male (via Engadget). The second voice option is available in Assistant’s settings (not yet live for all, so your mileage may vary) and applies to the Home app as well as to your… Read More Mobile – TechCrunch
Ahead of its Pixel 2 event, Google has quietly added a new voice to Google Assistant. The AI, which can be found on Google Home and the company's handsets, no longer skews female. As spotted by Android Police, Assistant now also boasts a male option…. Engadget RSS Feed