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The COVID-19 news cycle continues to turn, and with the holiday and flu seasons on the horizon it’s only getting more complicated. While some news recently has been promising, like booster shots and vaccinations for kids, this COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause concern as unvaccinated individuals are left unprotected and side effects of the pandemic continue to unveil themselves. Here are some of the key headlines from this week that you may have missed.Receiving a Pfizer or Moderna booster shot might be better than a Johnson & Johnson booster shot
A new “mix and match” study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showed that a second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna showed a stronger immune system response for those who had the J&J shot first than a J&J second dose. The study only included around 500 people, a much smaller size than initial vaccine trials, but in all possible combinations of the vaccines, those who got J&J for both the initial shot and the booster had the lowest immune response. Those who got the J&J first would be better off getting either Pfizer or Moderna as a booster—the combination boosts the J&J dose to be on par with the two-shot mRNA vaccines.White House pushes for more action on global vaccination
Under pressure from the public to do more for vaccination worldwide, the Biden administration is pushing Moderna to provide more vaccination doses for global populations. Pfizer has already coordinated with the US government to donate 500 million doses worldwide, and Johnson & Johnson may also be asked to offer doses in the future if their production capacity increases. While the administration has not taken any direct action yet (they have some authority to compel manufacturers during times of crisis under the Defense Production Act), a Biden administration official has urged Moderna to step forward at this time to aid in the vaccination effort outside the US.Tuberculosis deaths rise as side effect of the pandemic
For the first time in more than a decade, the number of global deaths due to tuberculosis has risen as resources diverted to the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting the number of tests and treatment available. Roughly 1.5 million people died of the disease last year, up from 1.4 million in 2023. Far fewer individuals were also diagnosed with tuberculosis in the first place in 2023, and the World Health Organization expects that many more individuals have actually been infected but have not been diagnosed.Experts warn about a possible flu outbreak amidst COVID-19 pandemic
The combination of distancing, masking, and other COVID-19 guidelines was effective at stopping the spread of the flu last winter, but even countries that did little to protect against the pandemic saw flu decreases. There were only around 2,000 cases reported in the US as opposed to the roughly 200,000 that occur on average. Experts think that the efforts of countries that did put in place COVID-19 guidelines may have affected the global spread of the disease. Because the season was so mild, they warn that it may be more aggressive this year (though one happy side effect is that at least one flu strain seems to have died out altogether). Last year, experts warned against a rough flu season as well, but the precautions that mitigated the season may not be practiced as commonly this year as vaccinations continue and individuals feel less inclined to stay home.Vaccine hesitancy causing hospitalization increase in pregnant individuals
Pregnant people continue to be one of the largest vaccine-hesitant groups in the country, despite the increased risk that contracting COVID-19 poses to them. According to CDC data, only a third of pregnant individuals aged 18 to 49 are vaccinated. The hesitancy likely comes from initial CDC guidelines that did not recommend the vaccine to pregnant individuals, as they were not initially included in studies, though it was widely considered safe (and though the risks of getting COVID while pregnant vastly outweigh the risks from the vaccine). The CDC formally recommended the vaccine to all those who are pregnant in August. More than 22,000 pregnant individuals have been hospitalized nationwide due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
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We asked our readers if they still store music on their phones locally. As it turns out, nearly 70% of our readership does, in fact, still listen to music without streaming it. A few of our readers told their stories about losing their huge collections and just giving up or streaming being cheaper than buying. However, some folks also talk about their rare collection of stuff you can’t easily find anymore.
File transfers on Android are much better than they used to be, but they can still be a pretty irritating experience. Our writer, Dhruv Bhutani, talked about how he gets around Android’s file system limitations with the use of know-how and applications. Hit the link to learn more.
We did another reader poll this week asking people how they watch new TV shows. Most of our readers watch TV in all sorts of ways, but others still try to watch TV shows as they air or wait until the season is over to binge-watch the whole thing. You can hit the link to check it out.
Google launched Android 13 beta 3 this last week. It’s the first beta released to reach the Platform Stability milestone. Betas should have minor changes until the final release. Platform Stability is where Google stops adding new things, so app developers have time to update their apps for the official Android 13 launch. You should see app developers release updates to support Android 13 from here on out officially.
Netflix is rumored to be in talks to buy Roku. This would be a huge deal since Roku is one of the big three set-top box operating systems. Both companies are currently struggling, though, and a merger may help out both of them. This is just in the rumor stages, though, so we’ll keep an eye on it and let you know if anything changes.Music Pro MU Origin 3
Price: Free to play
MU Origin 3 is a new MMORPG and the second one to launch in two weeks, with Diablo Immortal being the other. This one has three customizable classes, which are essentially melee, ranged, and magic. It also boasts an open world, cross-server PvP, tons of loot, and other MMORPG staples like flying. It’s a fairly straightforward MMORPG experience, but it does all of the usual MMORPG stuff solidly. It has a lot of menus that are confusing at first, and the auto-play is not everyone’s cup of tea. It has its ups and downs, but it should be pretty popular for a little while.Super Notes A Story of A Company
Price: Free to play
A Story of A Company is the latest game from Buff Studios, developers of Underworld Office and Buff Knight. This one is a visual novel game similar to Underworld Office. You follow the story of the everyday lives of a group of human and animal hybrids in their totally normal office environment. There aren’t any real mechanics, but that’s indicative of the genre at large. You mostly just read the story, make some decisions, and enjoy yourself until you reach the end. There are multiple endings, epilogues, and achievements for the player. It’s a pretty chill game overall, and Buff Studios does a pretty good visual novel in general.Microsoft Lists
When the AI grows sentient and Skynet becomes a reality, at least we’ll have been prepared by the nonstop onslaught of Terminator tie-ins this year—not least of which is the custom Xbox One X that Microsoft revealed this week. Look upon its eye and despair, for there is a new red ring of death to contend with.
This is gaming news for October 28 to November 1.Halloween hangover
Halloween’s over, which for me means getting ready for Thanksgiving, and for department stores means it’s time to bust out Christmas ornaments. But before we get too far into the holidays, Epic is still celebrating the spookiest season with a pair of giveaways this week. Both Soma and Costume Quest are modern classics, and you owe it to yourself to grab both even if you’re burned out from a month-long horror binge.
Next week is Nuclear Throne and Ruiner, which doesn’t sound very Thanksgiving-y to me. Then again, I can’t think of any Thanksgiving games off the top of my head. An underserved market, maybe.Beta bonanza
If you’re okay with less-finished fun, there are also multiple betas running this weekend. Warcraft III: Reforged is running a multiplayer beta, with rolling waves of invites going out first to those who preorder the “Spoils of War” edition and later to anyone who pre-orders period.
And Halo: Reach enters its third round of testing this week. You’ll need to sign up as a “ Halo Insider” and then hope for an invite, but those selected will get to test two missions (“Noble Actual” and “Winter Contingency”) and play a handful of multiplayer maps. You can also check out the minimum specs for running Reach in 2023. As you’d expect, they’re pretty damn low. A GTX 770 will get you to 4K, albeit barely, while a GTX 560 Ti is listed as the minimum for 1080p play.A Hideo Kojima Game Redder and Deader
Speaking of PC ports, Red Dead Redemption II finally hits PC next week. I’m sure you can imagine the improvements for yourself, all those glorious horse testicles growing and shrinking at 4K resolution. But if you want to take a peek ahead of time, Rockstar’s put out a very pretty PC launch trailer to entice you into buying a (second) copy.Sleeker Steam
Go ahead, admire it. It’s been a long time coming.Eggs
Wishlists are also coming soon, per Epic’s announcement. And while Epic still seems against user reviews, it did reveal a partnership with OpenCritic to surface review scores on the storefront. You can find more details here.Avengers
Square’s Avengers game is due out May 15 and I feel like we’ve barely seen it still. Or rather, we’ve seen the same section over and over, the prologue battle on the Golden Gate Bridge. For a second I feared this latest trailer would recap that for the umpteenth time, but it does dive deeper into the loot system and such in the back half. Still not much given the looming release date, but at least it’s something.Battlefield…6?
Battlefield’s been on an every-other-year schedule for a while now, but don’t expect Battlefield VI to come knocking anytime soon. EA’s Andrew Wilson got out there in an investor’s call this week and said we won’t see the next Battlefield until sometime in 2023 or maybe even 2023. That’s a three- or maybe even four-year gap between releases, which hopefully allows DICE to make more substantial changes—and maybe even a longer campaign? I can dream.Breaking point The horror
Okay, one last bit of Halloween-adjacent news: Red Barrels, developer of Outlast, used the day to tease its next project. All we got was one image, two hands clasped together and the words “Where freedom ends.” Is it Outlast 3? Maybe. I promise, you know just as much as I do. We’ll keep an eye out for more, because as much as I felt disappointed by Outlast 2, I’d still love to see Red Barrels recapture the oppressiveness of the original.Terminated
Forget the next Xbox. All I want is the ridiculous Terminator-themed Xbox that Microsoft revealed this week. Usually these tie-ins are bland affairs, a color-swap and maybe an alternate logo to promote some game or another. The Terminator: Dark Fate Xbox is a full custom mold though, with a melty-faced and red-eyed robot sticking out from the top. It is so ugly and so dumb and I’d love to put one in my house—but they only made one, and you have to win it in a contest. Damn them.
We’ll finish out this week the only way we could possibly finish out this week: with the debut trailer for Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher. Does it look better than I first expected? Slightly. Is bathtub-Geralt a neat nod to fans? Definitely. But does it look good? I’m…still not sold. At times it looks like the Game of Thrones spiritual successor it so desperately wants to be. Other points, it looks like The Witcher by way of The CW.
Late in the morning of May 3, a rocket blasted off into the heavens from a launchpad in New Zealand. Minutes later, as its second stage continued upwards towards orbit, the first stage of the rocket descended by parachute into the waiting hook from a recovery helicopter. The hook snagged the parachute line, where it was held—and then released. The launch, both a successful orbital delivery and useful feature test for rocket-maker Rocket Lab, highlights a future possible form of recoverable rocket launches.
At the heart of Tuesday’s launch was the novel recovery attempt. Getting to orbit is expensive work, and the ability to recover and reuse rocket components can lower the costs of each launch. Recovery in this instance was attempted by a Sikorsky helicopter.
“At 6,500 ft, Rocket Lab’s Sikorsky S-92 helicopter rendezvoused with the returning stage and used a hook on a long line to capture the parachute line,” Rocket Lab said in a release. “After the catch, the helicopter pilot detected different load characteristics than previously experienced in testing and offloaded the stage for a successful splashdown.”
For this specific launch, the catch ended up being more of a catch-and-release, but that attempt still went an important way to demonstrating the viability of the option. Knowing that the release worked—that the helicopter crew was able to snag the rocket and then determine they needed to jettison the booster—is a key part of proving viability. A method that involves helicopters but jeopardizes them pairs reusability with risk to the human crew.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck noted that it’s a tricky dynamic. “Once we receive confirmation that we’re under a good chute, we’ve got about 10 minutes to get on station and rendezvous with the stage,” he said, on a media call, “and not only rendezvous with the stage in a position in space but also in altitude and a descending altitude, a kind of three-dimensional problem if you will.”
[Related: SpaceX’s first paying ISS passengers say they’re not ‘space tourists’]
This launch, said Rocket Lab in the release, “is the first time a helicopter catch attempt was introduced to recovery operations and today’s mission will inform future helicopter captures.”
In addition to the helicopter snag, the rocket booster was slowed by its initial drogue parachute, as well as by a large main parachute. The drogue parachute stabilized and slowed the booster as it fell, with the main parachute deployed much closer to impact, working as a harder brake. Both parachutes were deployed by the time of the helicopter intercept.
“Trailing behind the main chute is the little drogue chute with a 150-foot line and there’s a 150-line hanging off the helicopter with the capture mechanism,” said Beck. “It’s kind of like Ghostbusters in a way, you want those two streams to cross, those streams being the helicopter long line and the line between the main chute and the drogue chute—those cross and grapple and capture, and then the helicopter slowly decreases the velocity of its descent.”
In this instance, after recovery from the ocean, the rocket booster stage was collected and sent back to where the company produced it for future analysis.
“It’s an incredible display of logistics and moving pieces. To even get something that’s entering from space at seven times the speed of sound on a ballistic arc to rendezvous with a helicopter was a huge achievement,” said Beck. “We got an image of it on a boat coming home. Little bit wetter than we hoped but incredibly successful.”
The company has a long history of adapting from imperfect initial results. When Rocket Lab sent its first Electron rocket up in 2023, the rocket did not quite make it into orbit as planned.
Since then, Rocket Lab claims it has had 26 Electron rocket missions, deploying a total of 146 satellites. Of those, 34 were deployed with the latest launch, and those include satellites that Rocket Lab says are “designed to monitor light pollution, demonstrate space junk removal technologies, improve power restraints in small satellites, validate technology for sustainable satellite systems that can avoid collisions with untrackable space objects, enable internet from space, and build upon a maritime surveillance constellation.”
So why doesn’t Electron just do it the same way SpaceX does? According to CNN, “[t]he company has said Electron is not large enough to carry the fuel supply needed for an upright landing, and a saltwater ocean landing can cause corrosion and physical damage.”
[Related: Jeff Bezos is suing NASA. Here’s why.]
Reusing boosters saves on materials cost, and it also saves on manufacturing time. Provided the rocket is not too badly damaged from seawater, refurbishing is a faster turnaround to readiness than starting from scratch.
If the helicopter hook technique can succeed in the future, a guided and slowed descent shortens that turnaround time even further, making it increasingly likely the company will be able to field as many launches as it schedules and population orbit with more and more satellites.
In the video of the capture attempt, filmed from a camera mounted on the helicopter, the hook can be seen dangling in the air below, a yellow tether suspended in air. The booster, parachute deployed, drifts into the frame. The sky below orbit is vast, full of room for trial and error. The successful snag is the story Rocket Lab is actively telling about the test, but the release of the cord to save the helicopter proves the concept can be attempted again, now with pilots who know what a catch and release feels like.
Watch the recovery attempt below:
Looking for something to play this weekend and determined not to crack open your wallet? The best sports game ever made a.k.a. Rocket League is free-to-play through Steam until Sunday morning Pacific time. Head here to install it or buy the game for a 30 percent discount.
That news, plus Rocket League is free for the weekend, Oculus shuts down its acclaimed Story Studio team, Valve opens up about receiving 75,000 support requests a day, Remedy confirms “Project 7,” The International 2’s funding campaign kicks off, Darksiders III comes back from the dead, and more.
The Witcher 3 in 8K. Eight. K. I can’t even believe it. Not too long ago 4K was just a glimmer on the horizon, then I laughed when people started talking about 5K. Now we’re at 8K? What happened? Where did 6K and 7K even go? And when can we stop talking in Ks?
Provided you don’t bear a grudge against Uplay, you can also try out The Division for free through Sunday. It doesn’t look like the DLC is included, but the somewhat decent story mode is available to burn through if you’d like.Fury
When THQ died I thought this day would never come, but five years later here we are: Darksiders III exists, and will release in 2023. The game stars whip-wielding Fury, third horseman horselady of the apocalypse, and is made by Gunfire Games, comprised of multiple ex-Vigil employees. IGN has the details through its “IGN First” program, and you can check out the first trailer below.8K Geralt
What do you do with four of Nvidia’s monstrous Titan Xp graphics cards? Apparently you use them to churn out The Witcher 3 on Ultra at a stupid-high 8K resolution. You can see for yourself with this video from YouTuber Thirty IR, though the effect will no doubt be lost on your probably-not-8K monitor. (Via Kotaku )Prepare to diiiiine 3C3C1D119440927
Speaking of over-the-top Japanese RPGs, Nier: Automata’s first DLC released this week, and it’s titled (wait for it) “3C3C1D119440927.” Seriously. There’s a launch trailer below, but all you really need to know is that the CEO of Square Enix Yosuke Matsuda is a boss character and you have to fight him.Mute-a-Laylee
Maybe I’m just less susceptible than other people, but I didn’t find the gibberish voices in Yooka-Laylee particularly annoying. If it drives you up a wall though, good news: An upcoming patch will allow you to “skip dialogue faster, bypass cutscenes, or reduce those pesky gibberish voices,” according to Playtonic. Camera tweaks are also incoming.Give me the cure The Long Development
It’s something of a joke that Early Access survival games will never actually be finished, but The Long Dark is looking to prove critics and naysayers wrong later this year. That’s right, The Long Dark is actually going to add in its much-touted story mode starting with two episodes in August of this year and concluding with three more sometime in 2023, hitting 1.0 “full release” during that same stint.
Your move, DayZ.Outside Oculus
Oculus is shutting down Oculus Story Studio, its internal dev team that made critically-acclaimed VR short films Henry, Lost, and Dear Angelica. The plan, according to Oculus’s Jason Rubin, is to “support more external production,” but it’s a damn shame—Story Studio made some of the highest-quality VR content, went to Sundance multiple times, and even developed Oculus’s amazing Quill art tool as an offshoot of Dear Angelica production.
Oculus also announced (via VentureBeat) that it won’t have a booth at E3 this year. Again, it’s hard to tell if it’s skipping E3 because it feels there’s no point (as with EA and Wargaming) or if it’s indicative of more serious problems at the company. Time will tell, I guess.International, again
Dota 2 is winding up for The International 2023, its annual tournament, and Valve’s officially started selling the Battle Pass for this year’s iteration—the proceeds of which go to fund The International’s prize pool. Less than day in and the prize pool already sits (as of writing) at $2.5 million.
For the record: $20.7 million is the target to beat from last year’s prize.
“This all-new campaign calls upon you to party up with three friends or queue-met allies to battle through a diverse landscape of loathsome monsters, cunning traps, and other lethal terrors. With the fate of Dark Reef and the safety of the free seas hanging by a fish-gut thread, you’ll need to work together if you’re to find any hope for survival.”Take a breath
More Valve news as we close out the week. If you’ve ever submitted a support request to Valve and been annoyed you received a canned reply, Valve wants you to take a breath and consider this: Apparently the company receives 75 thousand support requests every single day, mostly related to refunds.
If you want to dig into the numbers, Valve’s given support requests their own stats page. I still think Valve’s support should be better, given the importance of Steam, but oof—75 thousand requests a day sure does sound like a ton.Half-Left 3
And one more Valve tidbit: Half-Life 2/Portal/Left 4 Dead writer Chet Faliszek departed Valve this week, making him the third high-profile writer to leave the company in the last year or so (along with Erik Wolpaw and Marc Laidlaw). Best of luck to him, and best of luck to Valve. Seems like writers must be in short supply over there at this point.
Many people can get caught up in fake news, believing that it’s true, and that can cause many, many problems. This caused us to ask our writers, “What do you do when you encounter fake news?”Our Opinion
Alex says he doesn’t see a lot of obviously fake news, but in regards to bad journalism, he believes “we have to apply the tools that everyone has in their skeptic’s toolbox.”
Fabio quite simply says he just ignores it and moves on.
Miguel explains “we’ve lived for thousands of years with more fake news than we see today, and it was better proliferated than the real stuff.” He believes that “the gravity of the problem hasn’t changed. Its coverage has.” He notes that when he encounters fake news, if it’s honest mistakes, he’ll “send a private and polite letter to the editor.” If he doesn’t care, he’ll ignore it. If a friend is sharing the story, he’ll mention his concerns privately to them.
Phil encourages his Facebook friends to use common sense. If it’s a reputable source, “they should be critical but assume there’s at least a grain of truth in it.” But if it’s something less reputable like “AngrySpecialistNewsMedia.co, then it should either be taken with a massive sack of salt or at least follows up on other sites.” He suggests if you don’t have time to follow up on the story or if no other source is carrying it, you can safely ignore it.
I actually write news articles, so I see this topic with a slightly different spin as a purveyor of news. I agree with what has been mentioned above about looking for sources. I always cite my sources and link back to them. The websites I reference are always the top websites. I learned really quickly which ones I should avoid. Recently three CNN journalists resigned after it was discovered they didn’t source their story really well. But because CNN was so on top of it and took care of it and pulled the story down right away, it makes me trust them more.Your Opinion
What’s your take on this subject? Do you tend to ignore news that you deem as fake news? Do you let the authors of the stories know they are spreading fake news? Do you only read well-sourced news? What do you do when you encounter fake news?
Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site’s sponsored review program.
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