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Can better policies prevent workplace sexual harassment?

The Free Press WV

Sexual misconduct happens at work not because companies don’t publish anti-harassment policies, experts say, but because managers don’t enforce them — and because people fail to apply them to themselves.

While the floodgates on reporting abuse and sexual harassment have opened with high-profile cases in Big Tech, Hollywood and Washington, it’s not yet clear whether the effects of the #metoo movement have trickled down to day-to-day offices, factories and other places regular people work.

“I do think it will be a lasting movement,” said Roberta Kaplan, an attorney who won the Supreme Court case that legalized gay marriage in the U.S. But while Kaplan— who is defending a woman who is being sued by Hollywood produced Brett Ratner after accusing him of rape — thinks “most companies have policies that are pretty good,” there’s still a problem: Many people don’t truly comprehend them.

“They understand the English language, and what the words mean in the abstract sense, but I don’t think most people understood it in everyday life,” she said.

In an unusual move for a large company, Facebook on Friday publicly released its policies against workplace harassment and bullying, including its enforcement procedures and how it investigates complaints. The company says it wants to help other companies create better policies, and ideally prompt them to publish their own procedures too.

“We don’t think we are perfect, we don’t think we have all the answers,” said Lori Goler, the company’s vice president of people. But she said companies should “come together to make sure that we all learn from each other.”

Facebook itself has been sued for sex discrimination and harassment, in 2015 by a former employee who said she was wrongfully terminated in 2013 after she complained about being harassed. The woman, Chia Hong, later dropped the suit, and Facebook has maintained no wrongdoing.

Facebook would not disclose how many complaints of sexual harassment it has investigated, or specific details on how well its policy has actually worked. Goler said the goal is not to reduce the number of reports, but to get “as many people to raise their hand as possible.”

Dan Eaton, an employment attorney and instructor of business ethics at San Diego State University, said “sexual harassment policies, like ethics policies, are only as good as the managers who implement them and are responsible for making sure there is broad compliance.”

For a policy to be effective, he said, it has to be applied consistently — and if wrongdoing is found, there have to be consequences that are disclosed “not only to the person who complained but to the entire workplace.”

“That sends a message that these policies are not only on paper but in action,” he said. It is not clear if Facebook’s policy meets that standard.

Goler said that while Facebook’s policy itself has been “pretty consistent” over the years, the training around has evolved to address the “gray areas” and nuanced situations that people might encounter. For example, she said, “how many times do you ask someone out?” before backing off, and what if they don’t say no outright but that they are busy? Do you ask again?

Facebook, like many other companies, will fire offenders if the company determines that sexual harassment has taken place. More difficult are the unclear cases, where it’s one person’s word against another’s.

Facebook also has a mandatory arbitration agreement for anyone who joins the company. Experts on workplace harassment say these sorts of clauses can deter people who want to report harassment.

Facebook’s move on Friday follows Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s post over the weekend warning of a potential backlash against women and urging companies to put clear policies in place on how they handle sexual harassment allegations.

“We need systemic, lasting changes that deter bad behavior and protect everyone, from professionals climbing the corporate ladder to workers in low-paid positions who often have little power,” she wrote. “We need to end the abuse of power imbalances due to gender - and race and ethnicity, too. We must not lose this opportunity.”

Restorers Surprised by What They Found in Jesus’ Butt

It turns out Jesus’ butt has a lot to teach us about life in 18th century Spain. A wooden statue of Jesus on the cross hanging in the Church of Santa Agueda in Sotillo de la Ribera, Spain, was old and in need of fixing up, Science Alert reports. According to National Geographic, a team of preservationists were lifting the statue, Cristo del Miserere, onto a work bench when they realized there was something inside it. The team discovered the buttocks-portion of the statue was removable and concealed a document signed in 1777 by Joaquin Minguez, the chaplain of the Cathedral of the Burgo de Osma. “Although it is usual for many sculptures to be hollow, it is not so much to find handwritten documents inside,“ Science Alert quotes historian Efren Arroyo as saying.

Over both sides of two pages of paper, Minguez describes life in Spain in the late-1700s. He talks about harvesting wheat, rye, barley, and oats and discusses the region’s wine production, Gizmodo reports. He names malaria and typhoid fever as dangerous afflictions and notes that entertainment is provided by “cards, ball, bald, bar and other puerile games.“ He mentions the Spanish Inquisition and King Carlos III and praises Manuel Bal, sculptor of Cristo del Miserere, as a “natural scholar.“ According to the New York Post, Minguez’s document even names popular bullfighters of the time. Arroyo says the document appears to be an early form of time capsule. It has been archived for preservation, but a copy of Minguez’s writing has been reinserted into Jesus’ behind for future generations.

Here are your options if YouTube vanishes from Amazon gizmos

The Free Press WV

Attention Fire TV owners: YouTube might soon disappear from your Amazon streaming device. But you’ll still have options.

Google is threatening to pull YouTube from Fire TV by Jan. 1, the latest round in a fierce battle between the two tech heavyweights. If that happens, Fire TV owners can still watch on a phone, tablet or personal computer. That includes an Amazon Fire tablet, as Google hasn’t threatened to block that yet.

For those willing to abandon Fire TV, just about any other device will play YouTube. Not all of them will play video from Amazon, although Apple TV just got Amazon’s app Wednesday.

Here are some reasons you might want to stick with Fire TV — and some you might not.

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THE CASE FOR FIRE TV

YouTube was never the centerpiece of Fire TV to begin with. It’s not even a full-fledged app on Fire TV — just a link to a YouTube website designed for mobile devices.

Fire TV itself is best seen as a companion to Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime loyalty program. Although Amazon has gotten better about promoting rival services, video available through Prime remains prominent.

The device has Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built-in. In addition to weather, sports scores and stock quotes, it offers playback controls for some selected apps. That lets you ask Alexa to forward 30 seconds, for instance.

Amazon’s $40 Fire TV Stick is good for regular, high-definition TV sets. If you have a higher-resolution 4K TV, you’ll want the regular Fire TV for $70. There isn’t a lot of 4K video yet, but the price difference is small compared with what 4K TVs cost.

The regular Fire TV also offers high-dynamic range, which has better contrast and produces brighter whites and darker blacks. Again, HDR video is slowly coming.

On the downside, Fire TV doesn’t offer iTunes or Google Play video — and YouTube may soon join the list. Fire TV’s remote also lacks volume controls, something that’s becoming standard on streaming devices.

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GOOGLE’S ALTERNATIVE

The current feud centers on Amazon’s refusal to sell some Google devices that compete with Amazon products. That includes Google’s Chromecast, a streaming device that’s cheap but slightly tricky to use, since you have to start video on your iPhone or Android phone and then switch the stream to the TV.

Plenty of video services work with Chromecast — but Amazon doesn’t let its video service work with the Google device.

Google offers other manufacturers its own software for streaming devices called Android TV. On those devices, Google’s YouTube and Play services often get prominent billing in search results, but at least you can get Amazon video. Again, no iTunes.

One of those gadgets is the Shield from Nvidia. It’s pricey, starting at $179, but comes with 4K and HDR. You get voice searches through Google’s Assistant — playback controls with some apps, weather info and some data you might never think to ask a TV, such as flight status.

Shield is powerful and designed with gamers in mind; one feature allows screen sharing of game play. A package that includes a game controller costs $20 more. The controller gives you a headphone jack for private listening and hands-free queries with Google Assistant.

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PLAYING NICE WITH BOTH

Roku has one of the most complete channel libraries — more than 5,000, many of which you’ve never heard of. You can get YouTube, Google Play and Amazon video, but not iTunes.

Roku’s Express sells for just $30. The $50 Streaming Stick gets you a remote with volume buttons and voice search — though we’re talking basic queries related to shows and apps, not playback controls or information such as weather. The $70 Streaming Stick Plus adds 4K and HDR. Bells and whistles in the $100 Ultra include a remote that will emit a sound to help you find it under your couch cushions.

The Ultra’s remote has a headphone jack, so you can watch TV without waking up roommates. For cheaper models, you can get that through Roku’s smartphone app. (With Fire TV and Apple TV, you can pair wireless headphones.)

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FOR APPLE FANS

Apple TV is the only device to support iTunes. It also has YouTube, but not Google Play. Amazon joined Apple TV on Wednesday.

Though an iPhone isn’t required, Apple TV will be most useful with one. The basic device is $149; a version with 4K and HDR costs $30 more. You’re paying for the experience — in particular, integration and syncing with other Apple gadgets. For instance, you can type passwords on an iPhone instead of navigating a keyboard on the TV.

Siri offers similar playback controls and information queries as Alexa and Google Assistant. The touchpad on the remote offers faster forwarding and rewinding than rivals.

And while all streaming devices offer more than just video, Apple TV goes much further in offering an iPhone-like experience on a big screen. You can browse Ikea’s catalog or order food from Grubhub, for instance.

Cave Clues Point to Parched Mideast for 10K Years

The Free Press WV

For anyone holding hope that the dry conditions in the Middle East are but a temporary drought, two cave stalagmites taken from Iran tell a long history of the region’s precipitation and give a grim prognosis: not much rain for the next 10,000 years. Thanks to their chemical composition, the two rocks store data dating back 130,000 years, detailing how much water has fallen in that time, reports the International Business Times. Publishing their results in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews, researchers say the oxygen levels of the stalagmites—rocks that grow up from a cave floor—indicate precipitation levels that are linked to the patterns of the sun’s energy on the Earth’s surface. In short, they rise and fall together.

It won’t be for another 10,000 years, though, that “solar insolation” will rise above today’s values, forecasting more rain. “Local governments generally prefer the narrative that the region is only in a temporary dry spell,“ says the study’s lead author at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School. “To the contrary ... the future long-term trend based on paleoclimate reconstructions is likely towards diminishing precipitation.“ UPI notes that other climate models have suggested that the Mideast will become too hot and dry to sustain large populations within a century.

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