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Dog DNA testing takes off, and generates debate

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Jennifer Peltz, The Associated Press


Published Monday, February 11, 2019 2:44AM EST

NEW YORK — As people peer into DNA for clues to health and heritage, man’s best friend is under the microscope, too.

Genetic testing for dogs has surged in recent years, fueled by companies that echo popular at-home tests for humans, offering a deep dive into a pet’s genes with the swab of a canine cheek. More than a million dogs have been tested in little over a decade.

The tests’ rise has stirred debate about standards, interpretation and limitations. But to many dog owners, DNA is a way to get to know their companions better.

“It put some pieces of the puzzle together,” says Lisa Topol, who recently tested her mixed-breed dogs Plop and Schmutzy. Plop was the top-scoring mixed-breed, and Schmutzy also competed, in Saturday’s agility contest at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Judging toward the coveted best in show prize begins Monday.

A test by Embark — which this fall became Westminster’s first DNA-testing partner — confirmed Topol’s guess that her high-octane pets are more Australian cattle dog than anything else. But Schmutzy’s genetic pie chart had surprise ingredients, including generous amounts of Labrador retriever and Doberman pinscher.

Huh? Topol thought at first. And then: Maybe Schmutzy’s love of water and fetching is her inner Lab coming out. And doesn’t she walk a bit like a Doberman?

“They are the dogs that they are … They’re unique, and they’re special,” said Topol, a New York advertising executive. But the testing “makes me understand them better.”

Canine DNA testing for certain conditions and purposes goes back over two decades, but the industry took off after scientists mapped a full set of dog genes and published the results in 2005.

Wisdom Health, part of pet care and candy giant Mars Inc., launched a breed-identification test in 2007, added a health-screening option a few years later and says it has now tested over 1.1 million dogs worldwide. Numerous other brands are also available.

Mass-market tests have fueled research and helped animal shelters attract adopters by providing more information about prospective pets. DNA can back up purebred dogs’ parentage and help breeders try to eliminate certain diseases.

The technology has been used to identify dogs whose owners don’t pick up their droppings, to pursue accused biters and to free a Belgian Malinois from dog death row after he was accused of killing a Pomeranian in Michigan. And some veterinarians feel DNA testing enhances care.

“I want to know as much about my patients as possible,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and TV personality in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. He recommends testing all puppies.

But qualms about the dog DNA boom spilled into the prestigious science journal Nature last year.

“Pet genetics must be reined in,” a Boston veterinarian and two other scientists wrote. Their commentary opened with a troubling story: a pug being euthanized because her owners interpreted DNA results to mean she had a rare, degenerative neurological disorder, when in fact her ailment might have been something more treatable.

“These (tests) should be used in a limited way until we get a lot more information,” says co-author and vet Dr. Lisa Moses.

One concern is that tests can show genetic mutations that are linked to disease in some breeds but have unknown effects in the breed being tested. It also may be unclear how often dogs with the mutation ultimately get sick.

That means tests, in themselves, can’t necessarily tell pet owners how much they should worry. Or tell breeders whether a dog shouldn’t reproduce. Some in dogdom fear that DNA test results could keep animals from passing on otherwise good genes because of an ambiguous possibility of disease.

“The risk for overinterpretation is great,” but DNA testing can be useful along with other tools, says veterinarian Dr. Diane Brown, the CEO of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. It has invested almost $20 million in genomic and molecular research and supports an international effort to promote standardization for dog DNA tests.

The initiative, led by the non-profit International Partnership for Dogs, provides searchable data on test labs’ procedures and breed-specific health test information.

Test companies say their work can help researchers address the unknowns and provides immediately useful information, such as whether a dog’s genes suggest bad reactions to certain medications. Companies including Embark and Wisdom have veterinarians assigned to help people understand worrisome results.

“We’re here to help you care better for your dog,” says Embark Veterinary Inc. CEO Ryan Boyko, whose company has breed-and-health-tested nearly 100,000 canines in its 3 1/2 years. The alliance with Westminster — for which Embark is paying an amount neither would disclose — stands to give the company exposure, particularly to breeders.

Longtime Belgian sheepdog breeder Lorra Miller, who has had dogs compete at Westminster, was initially skeptical about consumer-oriented canine DNA tests. They struck her as a novelty for mixed-breed pets.

Now she hopes they can help Belgian sheepdog fanciers build up a body of genetic data to spark more research on the protective herders.

“Even if I don’t get immediate benefit … it’s for the future of the breed,” says Miller, who lives near Monroe, Washington.

For Rennie Pasquinelli, the benefit is a new perspective on her dog, Murray.

He was pegged as a border collie-Boston terrier mix when she adopted him. But an Embark test last month detected just a smidgen of border collie mixed with six other breeds, mainly American pit bull terrier. And no Boston terrier at all.

“Obviously, I don’t love him more, or less,” said Pasquinelli, a graduate student in cognitive science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. “It’s like when you know something new about someone. That doesn’t negatively or positively change your opinion on them, but you still look at them in a different way.”



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The most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

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LGBTQ+ in tech 4x3Paul Sakuma/AP; Ben Margot/AP; Rachel Murray/Getty; Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty; Amy E. Price/Getty; Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

  • Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in tech, but he isn’t the only one.
  • There are LGBTQ+ identifying individuals in prominent roles as venture capitalists, diversity in tech advocates, and C-suite level executives at large tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.
  • Here are 23 of the most influential and notable people in tech who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The atmosphere in Silicon Valley, where “bro culture” is rampant, is not know for being kind to anyone “different.”

That can especially be true for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals, who only gained the right to marry in the US in 2005. Gay marriage is still only legal in around 30 countries.

But a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector have emerged in recent years. Groups like Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises have worked to improve office culture at tech companies, connect LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and make resources more readily available to the queer tech community.

Business Insider has compiled a list of some of the most influential and notable people in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. Some techies on this list have harnessed their gender identities and sexual orientations to speak out about and further the presence of LGBTQ+ people in tech. For others, being LGBTQ+ is simply a part of their personal life, which they strive to keep separate from business.

Here are 23 of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in the tech industry:


Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+…

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

LGBTQ,Out Insider,Features,BI Graphics,Tim Cook,Arlan Hamilton,Megan Smith,Peter Thiel,Chris Hughes,Keith Rabois,David Blumberg,Martine Rothblatt,Joel Simkhai

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

2019-02-17T13:00:00+01:00

2019-02-07T00:09:59+01:00

2019-02-15T23:04:31+01:00

https://static2.businessinsider.de/image/5c6737b5bde70f39f2798a10-500-250/the-23-most-powerful-lgbtq-people-in-tech.jpg

BusinessInsiderDe



Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in tech, but he isn’t the only one.
There are LGBTQ+ identifying individuals in prominent roles as venture capitalists, diversity in tech advocates, and C-suite level executives at large tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.
Here are 23 of the most influential and notable people in tech who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The atmosphere in Silicon Valley, where “bro culture” is rampant, is not know for being kind to anyone “different.”
That can especially be true for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals, who only gained the right to marry in the US in 2005. Gay marriage is still only legal in around 30 countries.
But a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector have emerged in recent years. Groups like Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises have worked to improve office culture at tech companies, connect LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and make resources more readily available to the queer tech community.
Business Insider has compiled a list of some of the most influential and notable people in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. Some techies on this list have harnessed their gender identities and sexual orientations to speak out about and further the presence of LGBTQ+ people in tech. For others, being LGBTQ+ is simply a part of their personal life, which they strive to keep separate from business.
Here are 23 of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in the tech industry:

international

Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+…

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

LGBTQ,Out Insider,Features,BI Graphics,Tim Cook,Arlan Hamilton,Megan Smith,Peter Thiel,Chris Hughes,Keith Rabois,David Blumberg,Martine Rothblatt,Joel Simkhai

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

2019-02-17T13:00:00+01:00

2019-02-15T23:04:31+01:00

https://static2.businessinsider.de/image/5c6737b5bde70f39f2798a10-500-250/the-23-most-powerful-lgbtq-people-in-tech.jpg

BusinessInsiderDe



Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in tech, but he isn’t the only one.
There are LGBTQ+ identifying individuals in prominent roles as venture capitalists, diversity in tech advocates, and C-suite level executives at large tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.
Here are 23 of the most influential and notable people in tech who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The atmosphere in Silicon Valley, where “bro culture” is rampant, is not know for being kind to anyone “different.”
That can especially be true for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals, who only gained the right to marry in the US in 2005. Gay marriage is still only legal in around 30 countries.
But a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector have emerged in recent years. Groups like Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises have worked to improve office culture at tech companies, connect LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and make resources more readily available to the queer tech community.
Business Insider has compiled a list of some of the most influential and notable people in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. Some techies on this list have harnessed their gender identities and sexual orientations to speak out about and further the presence of LGBTQ+ people in tech. For others, being LGBTQ+ is simply a part of their personal life, which they strive to keep separate from business.
Here are 23 of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in the tech industry:

international



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Machines vs. cashiers: Why shoppers are so divided over self-checkout

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More than a million people clicked on a CBC News story last week about some retail stores removing their self-checkout machines. Thousands of readers also left comments, many staunchly taking a stand either for or against self-checkout.

The machines are now ubiquitous in many large retail stores, yet self-checkout remains a divisive issue among Canadians.

So what’s driving the debate? Turns out, age can be a factor as well as one’s view on whether the technology represents progress or a step backward as shoppers — aided by machines — do the work of cashiers.

“A lot of people do see self-checkout as a threat to workers,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Halifax-based Dalhousie University specializing in food distribution and policy.

“That’s probably why the debate is so emotional for a lot of people.”

These tweets in reaction to a CBC News story on self-checkout show how divided readers are.

The age factor

Self-checkouts are supposed to cut costs for retailers and provide choice for consumers. A recent U.S. survey suggests age can influence who’s drawn to them. 

Forty-six per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said, when given a choice, they prefer using self-checkout over a cashier.

That preference declines with age: 35 per cent of respondents aged 35 to 54 said they favour self-checkout, and only 19 per cent of those 55 and older would choose the machine over a cashier. 

CivicScience, a U.S. data collection and market research company, surveyed 1,969 adults online in July 2018.

“Obviously, they haven’t created [technology] that boomers want to adopt, so maybe that’s a user-experience issue,” said Casey Taylor, of CivicScience.

Although the machines have improved over the years, they’ve frustrated many shoppers, especially when they involved extra steps like weighing produce or applying a discount.

Consumer behaviour expert Brynn Winegard says that tech-savvy millennials may be more willing to accept such challenges.  

“They’re not daunted,” she said. “Troubleshooting a self-checkout terminal is not an issue for them. It doesn’t ruin their day.”

A recent study suggests that age might be a factor when it comes to choosing self-checkout over a cashier. (CBC)

David Ruta, 65, of Napanee, Ont., was turned off self-checkout about four years ago when, after scanning the only item he had, the machine insisted he scan a second item.

I didn’t have one,” he said. “Then it stopped working for the [employee] who tried to help me, and that’s when I left the store.”

In contrast, 34-year-old Matthew Easter, of Ottawa, says he’s found self-checkout machines quite seamless and believes they speed up the process.

“Why would I wait 10 minutes, maybe more, when I can check myself out in 30 seconds?” said Easter, who will only shop at grocery stores that offer the machines.

“It’s a more convenient option, especially if you’re a busy person.”

Matthew Easter of Ottawa will go out of his way to shop at a grocery store that offers self-checkout. (Submitted by Matthew Easter)

What about the jobs?

Many people believe self-checkouts are part of an inevitable shift to automation.

“There’s always going to be progress. There’s always going to be technology that’s going to come along to make things better, smarter, faster,” said Easter.

But those who prefer to use cashiers often fear the machines will lead to fewer of them and longer lineups — and they don’t see that as progress.  

Although he’s a senior, Ruta says he’s not intimidated by self-checkout technology but instead is concerned about its effect on retail workers. 

“I just would rather interact with a person,” he said. “You put in these self checkouts, you’re going to eliminate jobs.”

Nadine MacKinnon, 59, of Toronto, agrees.

“They shouldn’t be able to take away jobs from workers, force the customer to do that work for them for free.”

Nadine MacKinnon of Toronto says she avoids self-checkout machines when shopping. (Submitted by Nadine MacKinnon)

Although it has added more self-checkouts to many stores, Walmart Canada told CBC News the move hasn’t resulted in any job losses. Instead, some employees were re-deployed to other positions such as customer support for self-checkout.

But that may not always be the outcome. U.K.-based research and consulting group RBR said the number of self-checkout kiosks shipped to Canada tripled in 2017 compared to 2016, though it declined to provide exact figures. RBR attributed much of the growth to “labour pressures” created by recent minimum wage increases in some provinces.

Over the past couple of years, grocery chain Metro and retail giant Loblaw both announced they would increase their self-checkouts in select stores to help offset the higher cost of wages.   

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018Future of Jobs report, many jobs that can be replaced with automation, including cashier positions, are “expected to become increasingly redundant” over the next four years.

However, the study suggests that the job losses could be more than offset by the emergence of many new positions. But the questions remains what type of jobs will emerge and what happens to less-skilled workers. 

Walmart Canada says some cashiers have been re-deployed to other positions such as customer support for self checkout. (CBC)

Self-checkout fan Kyle Ross, 19, of Summerside, P.E.I., points out that even self-checkout kiosks generate jobs.

“You have the people that are creating the self-checkouts, the people that come and repair the machines when they need updates.”

That doesn’t placate shoppers like Ruta and MacKinnon, who still worry about displaced workers and how automation will change the shopping experience.

“I prefer to be served by a human being,” said MacKinnon.



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La Bretagne, berceau de la culture mégalithique

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Les mégalithes sont parmi les structures préhistoriques les plus facilement reconnaissables. Ces agencements peuvent prendre plusieurs formes, allant d’une série de pierres verticales placées en demi-cercle jusqu’à des agencements complexes servant de tombeaux à d’anciens guerriers de tribus aujourd’hui oubliées.

Ces constructions ont été érigées à travers l’Europe, de la période néolithique jusqu’à l’âge du bronze, et environ 35 000 d’entre elles y sont encore observables. Malgré cette importante présence et les centaines d’études les concernant, les mégalithes ont toujours conservé une part de mystère, leur origine restant cachée derrière les brumes des mythes européens.

Or, une scientifique de l’Université de Göteborg, en Suède, pourrait lever une partie de ce mystère.

Ses travaux (Nouvelle fenêtre) montrent que ces structures de pierres pourraient remonter à une culture originaire de Bretagne. De là, cette technique se serait ensuite répandue à travers l’Europe, en passant par la mer, lors de trois vagues distinctes.

On voit le monument de pierres dressées de Stonehenge, sous un ciel nuageux. Image captée au site de Stonehenge lors de l’éclipse solaire du 11 août 1999. Photo : Reuters

Une origine entre science et légendes

Jusqu’à maintenant, deux grandes hypothèses expliquaient l’origine des mégalithes.

La première, élaborée entre le 17e et le 18e siècle, avançait que ces pierres étaient l’œuvre d’un peuple ancien, dont les origines pourraient remonter à la Méditerranée ou au Proche-Orient et qui aurait propagé sa culture en Europe par voie maritime.

Cette hypothèse fut abandonnée dans les années 70 avec l’apparition des premières techniques de datation au carbone 14. Les données obtenues lors de fouilles autour de ces sites semblaient indiquer que les mégalithes seraient apparus au cours de la même période à travers le continent, créés indépendamment par diverses cultures européennes.

Pendant 10 ans, la professeure Bettina Schulz Paulsson, une archéologue spécialiste de la préhistoire, a alors passé au peigne fin la littérature scientifique concernant les mégalithes. Ces travaux lui ont permis de recenser 2410 datations au radiocarbone, en plus d’informations sur l’architecture des sites, les coutumes funéraires appliquées et les types d’outils qui y ont été employés. Elle a ainsi pu obtenir une ligne du temps de l’évolution des mégalithes à travers les âges.

Trois vagues, en partance de Bretagne

Selon ses données, les mégalithes les plus anciens se situent au nord-ouest de la France et auraient été assemblés il y a 6500 ans.

Ces premiers exemples étaient formés de quelques pierres agencées au-dessus d’un monticule de terre. D’autres structures étaient toutefois plus complexes comme des alignements de menhirs retrouvés dans la région de Carnac, en Bretagne, aussi produits autour de la même période.

Les datations suggèrent que les plaines de Bretagne seraient le point de départ de ce type de monument. Par la suite, ce style distinctif se serait répandu en France en suivant la côte atlantique, puis autour de la péninsule ibérique jusque dans la Méditerranée, au cours d’une période de deux à trois siècles.

Un millénaire après cette « première vague », on assiste à l’apparition d’un second style : des tombeaux formés d’une ou plusieurs chambres funéraires reliées entre elles par des passages en pierre. Ces derniers ont été retrouvés dans plusieurs régions de France, d’Angleterre, d’Espagne et à travers les pays scandinaves, toujours dans des régions facilement accessibles par voies maritimes.

Enfin, il y a entre 5000 et 4000 ans, la troisième et dernière vague de constructions s’amorce; c’est la période au cours de laquelle sont érigées, entre autres, les célèbres pierres de Stonehenge.

La propagation de ce type de constructions, en plus de leur quasi-inexistence en dehors des régions côtières, laisse croire, selon la scientifique, que cette culture s’est répandue par voie maritime. Cela impliquerait toutefois que l’émergence de techniques de navigation nécessaires à une telle diffusion de connaissances serait survenue au moins deux millénaires plus tôt que ce qui était précédemment accepté.

Même si la communauté archéologique a particulièrement bien accueilli cette étude, certains doutes persistent, et il est toujours possible que d’autres sites aient été construits indépendamment des trois vagues identifiées.



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