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One NFL team is asking their fans for DNA… not weird at all

(BUSINESS NEWS) The Ravens have teamed up with a DNA testing company to enhance fans experience as well as collect their DNA.

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dna day ravens

Just don’t think about it

Hey bro, can I borrow your DNA real quick? No, not for anything weird. It’s a marketing thing, totally fine.

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The Baltimore Ravens promotion team jumped like, a millennia into the future with their plan for DNA Day, where fans can snag free DNA test kits and have results delivered via app.

Just put it in a the box

“Find out what your DNA says about you! With Orig3n DNA tests, you can confirm things you always suspected about yourself and discover things you never knew,” the Ravens website touts. Anyone participating gets a test kit, swabs the inside of their cheek, then dumps the sample in a collection.

Not suspect at all. Don’t worry about it.

One of the genes tested is ACTN3, which, according to Orig3n, can tell if someone “is likely to have enhanced performance in power and sprint activities or is considered normal.” Colloquially known as “the sports gene,” ACTN3 is part of a binding protein gene family, and deals with skeletal muscle. Another gene tested can reportedly predict low levels of Vitamin D.

Boston-based biotech firm Orig3n will deliver results of the four-gene test via smartphone app to participating fans. According to Kevin Rochlitz, the Raven’s senior vice president of corporate sales and business development, Baltimore teamed up with Orig3n after the Raven’s sales team reached out about doing an in-game promotion. Founded in 2014, Orig3n has also collected blood samples from events and used cells from these tests to research regenerative medicine.

One of a kind

While totally bizarre, the plan is certainly innovative. “There aren’t too many places you can directly engage 70,000 people for a one-day event,” notes T.J. Brightman, president of public relations and marketing firm A. Bright Idea.

I’m certainly intrigued, and maybe even tempted to go to a sports thing if it means free science stuff that usually costs at least a few hundred dollars.

Peace out privacy

However, this kind of testing raises just a few privacy concerns. As Equifax reminded us, data breaches happen all too often. Ravens fan and attorney Bradley Shear notes that a breach of DNA info could “make you uninsurable for life insurance.”

So that’s neat. Orig3n stresses the company will use strict security standards to protect information, and that all results delivered to customers are encrypted.

How useful are these tests anyways?

John Hopkins genetic counselor Natalie Beck notes that “outside of rare single-gene genetic conditions, there is no single gene or targeted gene variants that can be tested to predict the health outcomes for any patient.” One free DNA test isn’t likely to change someone’s health outlook or provide life-changing insights.

So the Raven’s promotion is gimmicky, but maybe not completely useless.

Orig3n’s COO and founder Kate Blanchard stated that knowledge of one’s DNA is “no different than a scale to measure your weight or a cuff to measure your blood pressure.” The important thing is balancing expectations about what these DNA tests purport to do and what they actually do.

Probably not

DNA Day was scheduled for the team’s Sunday game against the Brown’s, but hours before the event, officials postponed the promotion. ESPN stated Orig3n is “working to address questions from officials from the state of Maryland.” So that’s reassuring.

Would you ask your customers for their DNA, credit card info, or other sensitive materials…and then ask them to drop this information into public bins…? Yeah, maybe not the best move.

#RavensDNADay

Lindsay is an editor for The American Genius with a Communication Studies degree and English minor from Southwestern University. Lindsay is interested in social interactions across and through various media, particularly television, and will gladly hyper-analyze cartoons and comics with anyone, cats included.

Business News

Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it

(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.

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Loop Team product page, trying to create an office culture experience remotely.

Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.

“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”

Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.

How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.

Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.

The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.

I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.

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Business News

MIT report reveals serious flaws in US unemployment system

(BUSINESS NEWS) In the wake of COVID-19, the US unemployment system is floundering to cover all who need the aid but it comes with serious flaws.

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Stressed couple discussing options during unemployment in dimly lit room.

Last week alone, nearly 1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Now that it’s urgently needed, this safety net is full of holes, leaving many Americans in freefall.

A newspaper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has highlighted several of the critical weaknesses in our country’s unemployment social safety net.

The report outlines how benefits fall short in three major ways: Duration, eligibility, and payment amounts.

The historical purpose of the benefits system was to replace half of lost wages for 6 months while they looked for another job. (The MIT paper even suggests that a more appropriate “replacement rate” would be higher than that.)

As of 2018, unemployment payments only cover Americans for one-third of their lost wages on average.

The income caps for these benefits have stayed fixed while wages have increased over time. That’s bad enough without considering that wages haven’t nearly kept up with worker productivity in the US, meaning those caps haven’t kept up with the real worth of those workers at all.

Compared to other developed nations, the US has lagged behind in public benefits since well before the pandemic.

In 2014, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development compared the duration of unemployment payments around the world. Out of 34 developed countries, the US ranked 33rd— offering less than every country on the list but Hungary.

To quote the research brief for the paper: “Even aside from changes driven by technology and trade, employers’ increasing reliance on contract workers and on-demand scheduling rather than on permanent employees who work predictable schedules has added to the precariousness of many workers’ jobs.”

And those economically vulnerable groups who need the support most are more likely to have jobs that aren’t covered under federal unemployment eligibility.

This includes gig workers (thanks to prop 22), part time workers, and the self employed: People often work these jobs due to constraints like parenthood or disability.

The CARES Act, which passed in April, temporarily allowed certain groups who would usually be ineligible, like the self employed (who are poised to grow in numbers as the job shortage persists) to collect unemployment benefits.

But CARES and HEROES are going to end in December, taking the extensions to unemployment, the eviction moratorium and the COVID sick leave requirements with them.

And instead of extending them, Congress may soon be looking to cannibalize those programs and their unused funds for another round of corporate stimulus spending.

But if the coronavirus relief acts are allowed to expire, nearly 14 million Americans will lose the aid that they provide.

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Business News

Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for

(BUSINESS NEWS) Fueled even further by COVID unemployment numbers, seasonal employment scams are back on the menu. Here’s how you can avoid them.

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A serious man considers a clipboard in potential employment scams.

With the sheer amount of desperation people are feeling these days, it’s only fitting that employment scams would see a resurgence this holiday season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.

The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.

Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.

Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.

As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.

It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign–again, in this economy, people aren’t shelling out for packing or wrapping jobs.

Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.

It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.

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