Google closes data loophole amid privacy fears over abortion ruling

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Source: Ars Technica – Google closes data loophole amid privacy fears over abortion ruling

Physics meets paleontology: The hotly debated mechanics of pterosaur flight

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Source: Ars Technica – Physics meets paleontology: The hotly debated mechanics of pterosaur flight

How the Yurok Tribe is bringing back the California Condor

The California condor is a New World vulture, the largest North American land bird. This condor became extinct in the wild in 1987, but the species has been reintroduced in California and Arizona.

Enlarge / The California condor is a New World vulture, the largest North American land bird. This condor became extinct in the wild in 1987, but the species has been reintroduced in California and Arizona. (credit: OldFulica/Getty)

The first California condor to reach Yurok ancestral land in over a century arrived by plane and car in late March of 2022. The small plane that carried Condor 746 had a rough landing, and the bird was irritable. He rattled around in a large dog crate during the three-hour drive to the tribe’s newly built condor facility, in a remote location in Redwood National Park.

Once there, he hopped into the flight pen, a tall enclosure of wire mesh, furnished with log perches and a drinking pool. At 8 years old, Condor 746 is an adult, his naked head bright pink instead of the black found in younger birds. He’s on loan from the captive breeding program at the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho. His job is to act as the mentor for four juvenile birds who will become the founders of a reborn condor society in Yurok country.

“We have mentors because condors are so social,” says Joe Burnett, California Condor Recovery Program Manager at the Ventana Wildlife Society. Young birds in a pen with no adult will become unruly. “You get the Lord of the Flies syndrome,” says Burnett. He and his colleagues quickly learned that release programs need an adult to serve as a role model and enforce the social hierarchy that is crucial to the flock’s survival.

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Source: Ars Technica – How the Yurok Tribe is bringing back the California Condor

How do painkillers kill pain? It’s about meeting the pain where it’s at

A variety of pain-relieving drugs are available both over the counter and by prescription.

Enlarge / A variety of pain-relieving drugs are available both over the counter and by prescription. (credit: SelectStock/Getty)

Without the ability to feel pain, life is more dangerous. To avoid injury, pain tells us to use a hammer more gently, wait for the soup to cool or put on gloves in a snowball fight. Those with rare inherited disorders that leave them without the ability to feel pain are unable to protect themselves from environmental threats, leading to broken bones, damaged skin, infections, and ultimately a shorter life span.

In these contexts, pain is much more than a sensation: It is a protective call to action. But pain that is too intense or long-lasting can be debilitating. So how does modern medicine soften the call?

As a neurobiologist and an anesthesiologist who study pain, this is a question we and other researchers have tried to answer. Science’s understanding of how the body senses tissue damage and perceives it as pain has progressed tremendously over the past several years. It has become clear that there are multiple pathways that signal tissue damage to the brain and sound the pain alarm bell.

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Source: Ars Technica – How do painkillers kill pain? It’s about meeting the pain where it’s at

The weekend’s best deals: Apple TV 4K, OLED TVs, MacBook Pros, and more

The weekend’s best deals: Apple TV 4K, OLED TVs, MacBook Pros, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

It’s the weekend, which means the time has come for another Dealmaster. Our latest roundup of the best tech deals from around the web includes a bundle at Apple’s online store that doles out a $50 Apple Gift Card with the purchase of a new Apple TV media streamer. Apple says it will email the gift card within 24 hours of your purchase being shipped. This isn’t a straightforward price cut, but if you know you’ll use the gift card on a future Apple purchase—be it another device, an Apple subscription service, or something on the App Store—the bundle effectively matches the largest discount we’ve tracked for the Apple TV 4K. The promotion as a whole will run through July 14.

While we still recommend the more affordable Google Chromecast—which is also discounted today—for most people in need of a 4K media player, the Apple TV 4K might be worth it for those willing to pay for faster (and more futureproof) hardware and a simpler user interface that’s less stuffed with ads than other streaming platforms. The device supports all the major apps and works with both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos, though its lack of 120 Hz support is disappointing for the price. While some Roku devices now support AirPlay, Apple’s box plays especially nice with other Apple devices, as well as platforms like HomeKit or Apple Arcade. The device is just overpriced, but this deal should lessen the blow.

It’s worth noting that, according to a recent Bloomberg report, Apple is developing a refreshed Apple TV 4K with an updated chip and an extra gigabyte of RAM, so this bundle may be Apple’s way of clearing out inventory before launching the new model. Exactly how much that new Apple TV 4K might cost is unclear. For now, though, the current Apple TV 4K is still plenty powerful for most streaming needs, so if you’re already ensconced in the Apple ecosystem and have wanted to hop aboard, this might be a good opportunity.

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Source: Ars Technica – The weekend’s best deals: Apple TV 4K, OLED TVs, MacBook Pros, and more

The weekend’s best deals: Apple TV 4K, OLED TVs, MacBook Pros, and more

The weekend’s best deals: Apple TV 4K, OLED TVs, MacBook Pros, and more

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

It’s the weekend, which means the time has come for another Dealmaster. Our latest roundup of the best tech deals from around the web includes a bundle at Apple’s online store that doles out a $50 Apple Gift Card with the purchase of a new Apple TV media streamer. Apple says it will email the gift card within 24 hours of your purchase being shipped. This isn’t a straightforward price cut, but if you know you’ll use the gift card on a future Apple purchase—be it another device, an Apple subscription service, or something on the App Store—the bundle effectively matches the largest discount we’ve tracked for the Apple TV 4K. The promotion as a whole will run through July 14.

While we still recommend the more affordable Google Chromecast—which is also discounted today—for most people in need of a 4K media player, the Apple TV 4K might be worth it for those willing to pay for faster (and more futureproof) hardware and a simpler user interface that’s less stuffed with ads than other streaming platforms. The device supports all the major apps and works with both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos, though its lack of 120 Hz support is disappointing for the price. While some Roku devices now support AirPlay, Apple’s box plays especially nice with other Apple devices, as well as platforms like HomeKit or Apple Arcade. The device is just overpriced, but this deal should lessen the blow.

It’s worth noting that, according to a recent Bloomberg report, Apple is developing a refreshed Apple TV 4K with an updated chip and an extra gigabyte of RAM, so this bundle may be Apple’s way of clearing out inventory before launching the new model. Exactly how much that new Apple TV 4K might cost is unclear. For now, though, the current Apple TV 4K is still plenty powerful for most streaming needs, so if you’re already ensconced in the Apple ecosystem and have wanted to hop aboard, this might be a good opportunity.

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Source: Ars Technica – The weekend’s best deals: Apple TV 4K, OLED TVs, MacBook Pros, and more

How to go from eating mosquitos in Siberia to leading a NASA mission

Image of four people in a boat.

Enlarge / Lindy Elkins-Tanton, second from left, and colleagues in Siberia. (credit: Scott Simper / ASU)

Lindy Elkins-Tanton is a Siberian-river-running, arc-welding, code-writing, patent-holding, company-founding, asteroid-exploring, igneous petrologist professor. At various times, she has been a farmer, a trainer of competition sheepdogs, a children’s book author, and a management consultant for Boeing Helicopters. She’s currently a professor at Arizona State University, she helps run a learning company, and she is the principal investigator for NASA’s “Psyche” mission to a metal asteroid.

Her self-described “curvy” career path has taken her research into planet formation, magma oceans, mass extinctions, and mantle melting. The results she’s generated have been foundational and have earned her a constellation of prestigious awards. There is even an asteroid—Asteroid 8252 Elkins-Tanton—named after her.

Given all that, perhaps the biggest revelation in her new autobiographyA Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman, is that this stellar high achiever was plagued by the same doubts and lack of confidence that afflict the rest of us. She wavered between forestry and geology as she was applying for college, she was stymied by organic chemistry as a freshman, and she was told she either wasn’t studying hard enough or wasn’t good enough. At times she felt she didn’t belong, and at other times she was told so. But Elkins-Tanton overcame those obstacles—and others far more profound.

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Source: Ars Technica – How to go from eating mosquitos in Siberia to leading a NASA mission

How many calories will the Tour de France winner burn?

Jumbo-Visma team's Belgian rider Wout Van Aert cycles to the finish line during the first stage of the 109th edition of the Tour de France cycling race in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 1, 2022.

Enlarge / Jumbo-Visma team’s Belgian rider Wout Van Aert cycles to the finish line during the first stage of the 109th edition of the Tour de France cycling race in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 1, 2022. (credit: Thomas Samson/Getty)

Imagine you begin pedaling from the start of Stage 12 of this year’s Tour de France. Your very first task would be to bike approximately 20.6 miles (33.2 km) up to the peak of Col du Galibier in the French Alps while gaining around 4,281 feet (1,305 m) of elevation. But this is only the first of three big climbs in your day. Next you face the peak of Col de la Croix de Fer and then end the 102.6-mile (165.1-km) stage by taking on the famous Alpe d’Huez climb with its 21 serpentine turns.

On the fittest day of my life, I might not even be able to finish Stage 12—much less do it in anything remotely close to the five hours or so the winner will take to finish the ride. And Stage 12 is just one of 21 stages that must be completed in the 24 days of the tour.

I am a sports physicist, and I’ve modeled the Tour de France for nearly two decades using terrain data—like what I described for Stage 12 – and the laws of physics. But I still cannot fathom the physical capabilities needed to complete the world’s most famous bike race. Only an elite few humans are capable of completing a Tour de France stage in a time that’s measured in hours instead of days. The reason they’re able to do what the rest of us can only dream of is that these athletes can produce enormous amounts of power. Power is the rate at which cyclists burn energy and the energy they burn comes from the food they eat. And over the course of the Tour de France, the winning cyclist will burn the equivalent of roughly 210 Big Macs.

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Source: Ars Technica – How many calories will the Tour de France winner burn?

Billing fraud apps can disable Android Wi-Fi and intercept text messages

Billing fraud apps can disable Android Wi-Fi and intercept text messages

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Android malware developers are stepping up their billing fraud game with apps that disable Wi-Fi connections, surreptitiously subscribe users to pricey wireless services, and intercept text messages, all in a bid to collect hefty fees from unsuspecting users, Microsoft said on Friday.

This threat class has been a fact of life on the Android platform for years, as exemplified by a family of malware known as Joker, which has infected millions of phones since 2016. Despite awareness of the problem, little attention has been paid to the techniques that such “toll fraud” malware uses. Enter Microsoft, which has published a technical deep dive on the issue.

The billing mechanism abused in this type of fraud is WAP, short for wireless application protocol, which provides a means of accessing information over a mobile network. Mobile phone users can subscribe to such services by visiting a service provider’s web page while their devices are connected to cellular service, then clicking a button. In some cases, the carrier will respond by texting a one-time password (OTP) to the phone and requiring the user to send it back in order to verify the subscription request. The process looks like this:

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Source: Ars Technica – Billing fraud apps can disable Android Wi-Fi and intercept text messages

The best game-exploiting speedruns of Summer Games Done Quick 2022

All four of the mascots seen in this SGDQ promo image appear in various speedruns hosted over the past week.

Enlarge / All four of the mascots seen in this SGDQ promo image appear in various speedruns hosted over the past week. (credit: Summer Games Done Quick)

The Games Done Quick series of charity events has long been a favorite among the gaming fans and critics at Ars Technica since it combines classic, beloved video games and carefully studied methods to break them apart in search of high-speed exploits.

This year’s summertime installment is particularly special, as it’s the first in 2.5 years to take place at a physical venue—albeit with some of the most stringent masking and distancing requirements we’ve seen in a livestreamed public show in 2022. (GDQ’s organizers appear to read the news, which makes sense for a series that benefits the likes of Doctors Without Borders.) Even with precautions taken, its combination of players, commentators, and crowds in the same room has brought excitement back to its broadcasts, which is why we’re pulling together some of the best runs from the past week, as archived at GDQ’s official YouTube channel.

The event is still ongoing as of this article’s publication, which means you can watch it right now via its Twitch channel. The event’s final runs, dedicated to Elden Ring, will conclude in the late hours on Saturday, July 2.

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Source: Ars Technica – The best game-exploiting speedruns of Summer Games Done Quick 2022

Google loses two execs: one for Messaging and Workspace, another for Payments

A large Google logo is displayed amidst foliage.

Enlarge (credit: Sean Gallup | Getty Images)

Google had a pair of high-ranking executives leave this week. The first was Bill Ready, Google’s “President of Commerce, Payments & Next Billion Users,” who left to become CEO of Pinterest. The second big departure is Javier Soltero, who was vice president and GM of Google Workspace, Google’s paid business app, and was the leader of Google Messaging. Both executives made big changes to Google in their nearly three-year stints at the company. Now that they are leaving, it’s unclear what the future of their respective products holds.

Ready was only at Google for two-and-a-half years, where his highest-profile move was presiding over the disastrous rollout of a significant Google Pay revamp. The new Google Pay app was spearheaded by Ready’s payments team, led by another recently ousted executive, Caesar Sengupta. The Google Pay revamp brought an app originally developed for India to the US, where the requirement for phone number-based identity came with a huge list of downgrades: The Google Pay website had to be stripped of payment functionality, the app no longer supported multiple accounts, and you couldn’t be logged in to multiple devices.

The rollout of the new app was also clumsy. Slowly, over a month or two, users were kicked out of the old Google Pay and had to transition to a new app. The new identity system wasn’t backward compatible with the old Google Pay, though, which meant users still on the old app couldn’t send money to users on the new app.

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Source: Ars Technica – Google loses two execs: one for Messaging and Workspace, another for Payments

FCC lets Starlink offer Internet service on moving vehicles throughout US

A Starlink satellite dish pictured on the ground, near an RV.

Enlarge / A Starlink satellite dish. (credit: Starlink)

SpaceX has secured US approval to provide Starlink satellite Internet service on moving vehicles, ships, and airplanes. In an order released Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission granted SpaceX’s application to operate consumer and enterprise Earth stations in motion (ESIM) throughout the US.

The FCC also approved a request from Kepler Communications to operate ESIMs on ships. Starlink and Kepler will be allowed to provide service on vessels in US territorial waters and international waters.

Starlink offers a service for RVs but says it isn’t designed to be used while the vehicles are moving. A version for moving RVs will presumably be offered at some point now that SpaceX has received the FCC approval, which says “SpaceX is authorized to operate Earth Stations In Motion on vehicles throughout the United States.” SpaceX is also planning to provide Starlink Internet on flights.

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Source: Ars Technica – FCC lets Starlink offer Internet service on moving vehicles throughout US

Smart contact lens prototype puts a Micro LED display on top of the eye

Woman putting in a contact lens

Enlarge / Smart contact lenses don’t work quite this easily yet. (credit: Getty)

Since 2015, a California-based company called Mojo Vision has been developing smart contact lenses. Like smart glasses, the idea is to put helpful AR graphics in front of your eyes to help accomplish daily tasks. Now, a functioning prototype brings us closer to seeing a final product.

In a blog post this week, Drew Perkins, the CEO of Mojo Vision, said he was the first to have an “on-eye demonstration of a feature-complete augmented reality smart contact lens.” In an interview with CNET, he said he’s been wearing only one contact at a time for hour-long durations. Eventually, Mojo Vision would like users to be able to wear two Mojo Lens simultaneously and create 3D visual overlays, the publication said.

According to his blog, the CEO could see a compass through the contact and an on-screen teleprompter with a quote written on it. He also recalled viewing a green, monochromatic image of Albert Einstein to CNET.

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Source: Ars Technica – Smart contact lens prototype puts a Micro LED display on top of the eye

Google hit with more privacy complaints for “deceptive” sign-up process

Google hit with more privacy complaints for “deceptive” sign-up process

Enlarge (credit: 400tmax | iStock Unreleased)

More than a billion people worldwide have signed up for Google accounts, clicking through screens promising that “your personal info is private and safe.” This week, Google’s sign-up process came under fire when European Union consumer rights groups issued new privacy complaints suggesting that the opposite is true—that Google intentionally designs default settings to deceive new users into granting permissions to harvest and share a broad swath of personal info.

“The language Google uses at every step of the registration process is unclear, incomplete, and misleading,” the European consumer organization BEUC told Reuters. BEUC is helping to coordinate a potential civil lawsuit in Germany and several new complaints to data-protection authorities from consumer rights groups in France, Greece, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Slovenia.

The key issue in these complaints is how hard Google makes it for account users to choose privacy-friendly options. It’s much easier, the consumer groups argue, to set up an account to share personal info than to protect it. As Tech Crunch reported, Google designed a one-click “express personalization” option allowing data tracking, while “manual personalization” requires 10 clicks to turn off tracking.

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Source: Ars Technica – Google hit with more privacy complaints for “deceptive” sign-up process

Yes, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft really could fly astronauts this year

Boeing's Orbital Flight Test-2 mission launches on May 19, 2022.

Enlarge / Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission launches on May 19, 2022. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Five weeks have passed since Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returned from a largely successful test flight to the International Space Station, and the company continues to review data from the mission alongside engineers from NASA.

So far, there have been no showstoppers. In fact, sources say, the relatively clean performance of Starliner has increased the possibility that the vehicle could make its first crewed flight this year in December.

This mission, called the Crew Flight Test, will likely carry two astronauts to the space station. If successful, it would clear the way for long-duration, operational missions to the space station in 2023 and give NASA a much-coveted second means of getting astronauts into space.

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Source: Ars Technica – Yes, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft really could fly astronauts this year

Windblown “alien things” caused massive COVID outbreak, North Korea says

Balloons carrying anti-North Korea leaflets are released by North Korean defectors, now living on South Korea, on February 16, 2013, in Paju, South Korea.

Enlarge / Balloons carrying anti-North Korea leaflets are released by North Korean defectors, now living on South Korea, on February 16, 2013, in Paju, South Korea. (credit: Getty | Chung-Sung Jun)

After an intense, detailed investigation, North Korea has determined what sparked an explosive outbreak of COVID-19 that has led to over 4.7 million “fevers” within its borders since late April. The culprit: “alien things” blown into the country from the South.

According to a report from the official KCNA news agency, North Korea’s outbreak began in early April when an 18-year-old soldier and a five-year-old kindergartener made contact with “alien things in a hill” in the area of Ipho-ri in Kumgang County, which is in the country’s southeastern corner near the border. The two later tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and epidemiological analyses found that those cases were solely behind the country-wide outbreak; the two infections link to greater spread in Kumgang and, from there, into the rest of North Korea.

“It was also ascertained,” the report reads, “that the fever cases reported in all areas and units of the country except the Ipho-ri area till mid-April, were due to other diseases.” The report did not include any information about how officials came to that conclusion.

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Source: Ars Technica – Windblown “alien things” caused massive COVID outbreak, North Korea says

The world can’t wean itself off Chinese lithium

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Source: Ars Technica – The world can’t wean itself off Chinese lithium

Some Macs are getting fewer updates than they used to. Here’s why it’s a problem

Some Macs are getting fewer updates than they used to. Here’s why it’s a problem

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

When macOS Ventura was announced earlier this month, its system requirements were considerably stricter than those for macOS Monterey, which was released just eight months ago as of this writing. Ventura requires a Mac made in 2017 or later, dropping support for a wide range of Monterey-supported Mac models released between 2013 and 2016.

This certainly seems more aggressive than new macOS releases from just a few years ago, where system requirements would tighten roughly every other year or so. But how bad is it, really? Is a Mac purchased in 2016 getting fewer updates than one bought in 2012 or 2008 or 1999? And if so, is there an explanation beyond Apple’s desire for more users to move to shiny new Apple Silicon Macs?

Using data from Apple’s website and EveryMac.com, we pulled together information on more than two decades of Mac releases—almost everything Apple has released between the original iMac in late 1998 and the last Intel Macs in 2020. We recorded when each model was released, when Apple stopped selling each model, the last officially supported macOS release for each system, and the dates when those versions of macOS received their last point updates (i.e. 10.4.11, 11.6) and their last regular security patches. (I’ve made some notes on how I chose to streamline and organize the data, which I’ve put at the end of this article).

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Source: Ars Technica – Some Macs are getting fewer updates than they used to. Here’s why it’s a problem

Rocket Report: ULA starts military lobbying campaign, SLS to launch in 2 months

SpaceX launched the SES-22 mission (shown here) this week, its 27th of the year. The company's Falcon 9 launches have become so routine it didn't even make this week's Rocket Report!

Enlarge / SpaceX launched the SES-22 mission (shown here) this week, its 27th of the year. The company’s Falcon 9 launches have become so routine it didn’t even make this week’s Rocket Report! (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Welcome to Edition 5.01 of the Rocket Report! The Rocket Report turns 5 years old today, which means we have now published about 200 editions. I’ve probably written 400,000 words—more than one word for every kilometer to the Moon. That seems like a lot in hindsight, but I also feel like I’m just getting started. Thanks to everyone who has read along, and shared the newsletter with your friends and co-workers.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don’t want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets, as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Rocket Lab launches first deep-space mission. The company’s small Electron vehicle launched the 25 kg CAPSTONE mission on Tuesday, and the rocket placed the spacecraft into a good orbit, Chief Executive Peter Beck said. Since then, Rocket Lab’s “Photon” spacecraft bus has been performing additional burns to raise CAPSTONE’s orbit. In a few days, after raising CAPSTONE’s orbit to 60,000 km, the Photon stage will make a final burn and boost CAPSTONE into deep space.

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Source: Ars Technica – Rocket Report: ULA starts military lobbying campaign, SLS to launch in 2 months

FDA calls for fall boosters against BA.4/5 as subvariants take over US

Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research within the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research within the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on the federal coronavirus response on Capitol Hill on March 18, 2021, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Pool)

On Thursday, the US Food and Drug Administration advised vaccine makers to reformulate COVID-19 booster shots for this fall. The boosters would target both the original strain of the pandemic coronavirus plus two new omicron subvariants—BA.4 and BA.5—which became the dominant versions of the virus circulating in the United States this week.

The FDA’s announcement comes two days after its independent expert advisors voted overwhelmingly in favor of updating boosters to include an omicron component. The vote—19 in favor, two against—was simply in favor of including an omicron component generally. But, in their afternoon-long discussion, experts offered opinions that led to the FDA’s more specific guidance.

Specifically, much of the committee expressed support for combination shots—aka bivalent boosters—that would target both the original virus and a version of omicron. There was also broad support for targeting the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 specifically, rather than earlier subvariants, such as the first, BA.1, which is no longer in circulation.

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Source: Ars Technica – FDA calls for fall boosters against BA.4/5 as subvariants take over US