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5 important stories that deserve more attention

1. Excessive video-game playing could be a mental health disorder, the WHO says

Playing video games compulsively and excessively can now be considered a mental health disorder, according to the World Health Organization.

The organization included “gaming disorder” in the latest edition of its International Classification of Diseases, a guide used by medical practitioners and researchers to diagnose and categorize conditions.

The disorder, according to the WHO, is characterized by “impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.”

Dr. Vladimir Poznyak of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse said that in order for gaming to be diagnosed as a disorder, a person usually has to exhibit those characteristics for at least 12 months. He added that a health professional must be the one to make the diagnosis. [The Washington Post]

Why it matters:

The WHO said it decided to include compulsive gaming in the latest version of its guide in part because classifying it as a disorder can help countries plan public health strategies and monitor trends. It can also make it easier to find treatment and ways to afford it, the Washington Post reported.

Still, the WHO noted that gaming disorder affects only a small percentage — about 3 percent — of the 2 million people who play video games.

Dr. Joan Harvey, a spokeswoman for the British Psychological Society, told the Associated Press that the designation shouldn’t alarm parents of young gamers.

“People need to understand this doesn’t mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” she said.

Parents should monitor the amount of time children spend gaming and look for signs that it’s replacing other daily activities, as well as any changes in physical or psychological health and social functioning that could be attributed to a pattern of gaming behaviour, the WHO said.

2. University of Chicago latest to drop SAT, ACT scores requirement

Suzane Nazir uses a Princeton Review SAT Preparation book to study for the test on March 6, 2014 in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The University of Chicago announced last week that it will no longer require SAT or ACT scores for admission of American undergraduate students.

The university said in a statement that the test-optional admissions process, which will be rolled out with the class of 2023, is part of an initiative designed to make its undergraduate college more accessible to first-generation and low-income students.

Registering for the tests costs students and their families at least $46. Signing up for essays costs about an extra $15. Students can also retake the tests at their own expense.

James G. Nondorf, the university’s dean of admissions and financial aid, said in a statement that the initiative levels the playing field, allowing low-income students to present themselves “as well as any other applicant.”

“We want students to understand the application does not define you — you define the application,” he said.

The change comes as part of a broader UChicago Empower Initiative that also aims to expand financial aid and other programs and resources to help underrepresented students pursue higher education. [The University of Chicago]

Why it matters:

Dozens of schools across the country have already adopted test-optional policies. Last month, Yale said it would no longer require SAT and ACT essays to admit students, while in 2016, Columbia joined the University of Pennsylvania, becoming the nation’s first two Ivy League schools to drop the SAT’s subjects tests and essay requirements.

The Washington Post reports that colleges and universities that still require the standardized tests use them as a check against high school grades, which can be inflated.

Still, the University of Chicago’s decision may force other institutions that compete for applicants to consider going test-optional, too. Some admissions deans from other schools are already weighing what to do in response to the university’s announcement, the Post reported.

Don Hossler of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education told Inside Higher Ed that “for most schools, their thinking will be along the lines of: ‘I want to be competitive for those students and do not want to be left off of the list of schools students are considering only because we are not test optional.’”

3. Landslides, flooding from monsoon rains threaten Rohingya refugees

Rohingya refugee women carry baskets of dried out mud from the riverbed to help raise the ground level of the camp in preparation for monsoon season, in Shamlapur refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, March 24, 2018. Photo by REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

The United Nations warns that recent monsoon rains have threatened the lives of nearly 200,000 Rohingya Muslims living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

According to the U.N., the storms have caused flooding and landslides in the hilly areas that lack trees, rocks and shrubs to hold back sandy ground. At the same time, strong winds have damaged hundreds of shelters, leaving families exposed to the storms.

At least three people have died in the past week, including a 3-year-old Rohingya boy who was crushed by a mud wall of his shelter.

The U.N. says the storms have shut down roads and several learning centers in the area. The rains could also increase the threat of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea.

“As the monsoon rains intensify, so do the dangers that children face – not only injury, separation or even death as a result of landslides and flooding, but also disease, and a lack of access to vital services including health and education,” UNICEF Representative in Bangladesh Edouard Beigbeder said in a statement. [Buzzfeed]

Why it matters:

Last year, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, religious minorities in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar, fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape attacks, executions and in some cases rape by the Myanmar military.

The current monsoon season presents yet another challenge for the thousands of families displaced by what’s now considered a humanitarian crisis.

“It’s vital that refugees in the most vulnerable locations are able to move to safer locations, but many families – who have already faced upheavals several times over the last few months — are reluctant to abandon their makeshift homes,” Beigbeder said.

Last month, the UN struck a deal with Myanmar to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to the country. In January, Myanmar and Bangladesh also agreed to complete the repatriation of refugees within two years.

More than eight feet of rain is expected to fall in the area throughout the summer, the UN reports.

4. NASA loses contact with Opportunity rover during major Martian dust storm

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is shown in this handout photo released to Reuters July 29, 2014.

NASA’s Opportunity rover is weathering a massive dust storm on Mars that has blanketed a quarter of the red planet’s surface since it was first detected on May 30.

The tempest has blotted out the sun, likely forcing the solar-powered rover to effectively go into sleep mode until the storm passes.

NASA said Tuesday it could be several days before the rover receives enough sunlight to recharge itself, but engineers weren’t sure how long the storm would last.

The storm has had a minimal impact on the Curiosity rover, which is currently on the other side of the world. Although the tempest has reached Curiosity’s location, that rover is a nuclear-powered vehicle, so unlike Opportunity, it doesn’t require sunlight to remain operational. [NASA]

Why it matters:

NASA says massive dust storms are infrequent, occurring about once every six to eight Earth years. But when they occur, they can last weeks if not months.

If this storm lasts long enough, there’s a chance the rover could get too cold. This could potentially damage the vehicle and end its 14-year mission. Mars’ extreme cold is what likely ended the mission of NASA’s Spirit rover in 2010.

“We should be able to ride out this storm,” Opportunity project manager John Callas said during a news conference last week. “We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate to us.”

5. New Apple iPhone feature reignites consumer rights versus security battle

A customer holds the iPhone X during the global launch of the new Apple product in central Sydney, Australia, November 3, 2017. Photo by David Gray/Reuters

Smartphone security is better than it was when the devices first hit the market. But as we learned in the wake of 2015’s San Bernardino shooting, when the FBI enlisted the help of a forensic firm to unlock the suspect’s iPhone after Apple refused, it isn’t hard for investigators to access devices they need, even those protected by multiple layers of security.

That could change with the release of a new setting — USB Restricted Mode — released by Apple last week.

The iPhone’s new operating system, iOS12, will include a default setting that prevents the device from transmitting information through the USB port — what many firms use to get around passwords and passcodes — after it has been locked for more than an hour. It will become a permanent feature in the company’s next rollout.

This could “cut access by as much as 90 percent,” Reuters reported.

Apple said the goal of the restricted setting wasn’t to block law enforcement — “we have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs,” it said in a statement. It was intended as a tool for consumers in all countries, particularly those with high crime or without as many personal protections from law enforcement, it noted.

A Justice Department official told Eric Geller of Politico that in light of the change, the “FBI may now be able to claim an exigent need to extract data from seized devices” within an hour and without a warrant. [Reuters]

Why it matters:

The new setting appears to have reignited the running war between tech companies — who have pointed to consumers’ rights in refusing to hand over personal information like passwords or other encryption data — and federal and law enforcement agencies, who say that tech companies’ refusal to help them interferes with investigations and possibly even national security.

Still, it’s not clear how often police actually run into this issue. As recently as January, FBI Director Chris Wray described encrypted smartphones as a “major public safety issue” and implored companies like Apple to help, though an investigation by the Washington Post last month suggested that the government was overstating the problem by several thousand devices.

Fight aside, researchers and federal agents are going to continue to devise new methods of getting into your phone, Reuters writes. The bad news: “Even some of the methods most prized by intelligence agencies have been leaked on the internet,” which means those workarounds could more easily fall into the wrong hands, too.