Game On: ‘Destiny 2: Beyond Light’ is style over substance

After being postponed from a September release, the “Beyond Light” expansion to “Destiny 2” was launched on Nov. 10. The 2017 game has seen many updates, but this one brought it over to the new Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 and added a slew of new content.

It’s been advertised by developer Bungie as “the beginning of a new era” and a great starting point for newcomers and players returning after a hiatus. I disagree with that notion.

After sinking a few hours into the revamped game, it quickly became clear the missions introduced in “Beyond Light” represent all the worst aspects of “Destiny” – the gameplay is smooth but not very innovative; the story is meandering and dull; and Bungie brought back characters from the original 2014 title so unmemorable, I didn’t initially realize who they were.

I hit a wall just two hours in – playing the campaign missions in order, I soon confronted the Fallen lieutenant Phylaks in an open playing field with almost nowhere to take cover. She was able to kill me in two hits, whereas even my super abilities did miniscule damage.

After fruitlessly attempting the battle 20 times, I cut my losses and began replaying older content to increase my power level. Grinding the same content over and over to attain greater power is the intended way to play “Destiny 2.”

This style of video game is not uncommon, but it’s difficult not to feel disappointed given the development team once promised the franchise would set itself apart from other massively multiplayer online games by allowing gamers to be casual weekend players instead of catering to addicts a la “World of Warcraft” and “Eve Online.”

Initially, that promise was met. I had a lot of fun with “Destiny 2” when it was released traveling the solar system to eradicate hostile aliens and androids in a trio with my best friend and wife. It was challenging at points, but with some trial and error we made it through – just like any good video game.

We certainly didn’t chase after some arbitrary power level to unlock the next mission, which is what the “Beyond Light” expansion requires. The gunplay of “Destiny” is smooth and satisfying, the art direction is gorgeous, and it’s fun to play with friends – despite all that, for myself and many other gamers, the franchise has a fundamental flaw.

It’s purposefully designed to be replayed endlessly, but doing so quickly makes the game feel dull and lifeless. “Beyond Light” has made the issue worse – now it’s apparently impossible to even play the new story once through without grinding missions.

It’s difficult to feel connected to any sense of story progression when you’re encouraged to play random strike missions out of order so that your weapons afflict enemies with more than glorified papercuts.

I understand “Destiny” was never intended to be an arcade shooter, nor present a linear experience like the “Halo” series Bungie is renowned for – but

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Carrie Underwood’s ‘Gift’ to Fans: Creating ‘Light in a Dark Year’ With New Christmas Album & Special

Fans can see her perform “Hallelujah” with Legend, as well as other holiday treats on her HBO Max special My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood, premiering Thursday. She’ll also reveal behind-the-scenes moments during the recording process of “Little Drummer Boy” with her 5-year-old son Isaiah to spread much-needed holiday cheer from her family to others.

“I really hope people watch it and just feel at peace. It’s the kind of thing that you can watch with your family. Hopefully, people sing along with me on their couches and just get a sense of hope and peace and love and joy and all of the good things that are about Christmas,” Underwood tells Billboard via a phone interview.

“Silent Night” and “Hallelujah” from your album are among the top five most-streamed holiday songs this year. Why do you think your fans have particularly gravitated to those songs from your Christmas album?

You never know how people are going to react when you record something or write something or whatever it is. You just kind of throw it all out there and just see. But I think with “Hallelujah,” it’s just a beautiful song. It covers a lot of ground in Christmas song land. It’s got some spiritual aspects to it, it’s got kind of this love story thing to it, it’s got all of the tactile [elements] … winter’s chill, candles. It paints the scene really well, so it kind of puts you into that time of year. And I’m glad to see people are digging what we’re doing.

Your HBO Max special is officially being unwrapped this week. What’s the most heartfelt moment you’re looking forward to fans seeing as you perform your original and traditional Christmas carols?

We went about this whole special just wanting it to be beautiful and timeless. And the way it’s shot, the scenes that are created around me, are just that. I got the chance to watch it back in a theater and sit there — it was just four or five of us watching everything. And I was singing — not literally, but with my body, like tensing up singing every note with myself, and just the way it’s shot is just beautiful. I really hope people watch it and just feel at peace.

How did it feel recording “Little Drummer Boy” with your 5-year-old son Isaiah, who made his Billboard chart debut with the track?

It was so great. He came in, I asked him if he might want to do it. I definitely wanted it to be his choice and didn’t want to force him into it or make it feel like work or anything like that. And he, at 5 years old, I feel like has just such a heart for the Lord. He is so compassionate and so sweet and so giving and so loving. He is what I think of when I think of the “Little Drummer Boy.” So I asked him if he wanted to

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Creating ‘Light in a Dark Year’ With New Christmas Album & Special

The Christmas tiding of “peace on earth” can’t ring loudly enough in 2020. From the deadly COVID-19 pandemic to Black Lives Matter protests calling for racial justice, peace has been in short supply. Carrie Underwood is hoping to “create light in a dark year” through her holiday album and TV special. 

Not even the acclaimed Queen of Christmas Mariah Carey lets her Lambs sing her No. 1 holiday staple “All I Want for Christmas Is You” until Nov. 1. But on Sept. 25, Underwood delivered a special early present: her first full-length Christmas album, My Gift, which  contained 11 traditional and original jingles. My Giftdebuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart (dated Oct. 1), bestowing the country singer her eighth consecutive No. 1 album on the tally.

Not only did My Gift kickstart Christmas early, but it spawned two of the top five new streaming holiday songs of the year, through Nov. 26, according to MRC Data/Nielsen Music, with “Silent Night” at No. 3 (6.3 million on-demand streams) and “Hallelujah,” featuring John Legend, at No. 5 (4.1 million). “Favorite Time of Year,” which is streaming exclusively on Amazon and appears as an extra on the album, comes in at No. 4 (5.9 million).

Fans can see her perform “Hallelujah” with Legend, as well as other holiday treats on her HBO Max special My Gift: A Christmas Special From Carrie Underwood, premiering Thursday. She’ll also reveal behind-the-scenes moments during the recording process of “Little Drummer Boy” with her 5-year-old son Isaiah to spread much-needed holiday cheer from her family to others.

“I really hope people watch it and just feel at peace. It’s the kind of thing that you can watch with your family. Hopefully, people sing along with me on their couches and just get a sense of hope and peace and love and joy and all of the good things that are about Christmas,” Underwood tells Billboard via a phone interview.

“Silent Night” and “Hallelujah” from your album are among the top five most-streamed holiday songs this year. Why do you think your fans have particularly gravitated to those songs from your Christmas album?

You never know how people are going to react when you record something or write something or whatever it is. You just kind of throw it all out there and just see. But I think with “Hallelujah,” it’s just a beautiful song. It covers a lot of ground in Christmas song land. It’s got some spiritual aspects to it, it’s got kind of this love story thing to it, it’s got all of the tactile [elements] … winter’s chill, candles. It paints the scene really well, so it kind of puts you into that time of year. And I’m glad to see people are digging what we’re doing.

Your HBO Max specialis officially being unwrapped this week. What’s the most heartfelt moment you’re looking forward to fans seeing as you perform

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Repurposed mouse model sheds light on spectrum of COVID-19 disease symptoms

A repurposed mouse model can develop symptoms of both severe COVID-19 (lung damage, blood clots, abnormal blood vessels, and death) and also of milder disease, including loss of the sense of smell, according to a recent University of Iowa study published in Nature.

The study also showed that convalescent plasma from a patient who had recovered from COVID-19 protected the mice against lethal disease. The findings suggest the K18-hACE2 mouse model is useful for understanding a spectrum of COVID-19 disease symptoms, and for developing and testing new treatments.

When COVID-19 started spreading across the world earlier this year, UI researchers Stanley Perlman, MD, PhD, and Paul McCray, MD, realized that a mouse model they had created a decade earlier to study SARS might be an invaluable tool for understanding the concerning new disease and for testing potential treatments.

In the new study, Perlman, McCray, and colleagues present a detailed characterization of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in these K18-hACE2 mice, which are now readily available from Jackson Laboratories.

Infection with a high dose of the virus produced many of the signs of illness seen in people with severe COVID-19, including severe lung damage, abnormalities in blood vessels known as vasculitis, blood clots, and death.

The mouse develops pretty robust lung disease that is on the severe end of the spectrum. That gives us an opportunity to investigate what’s going on with lung disease with COVID. Also, people who die from this disease often have vasculitis, which is unusual for coronavirus infections, and we found that the mice may develop signs of vasculitis in the liver, lung, and brain.”


Paul McCray, UI professor of pediatrics-pulmonology, and of microbiology and immunology, and the Roy J. Carver Chair in Pulmonary Research

One particularly interesting finding was that the infected mice lost their sense of smell. This effect, also known as anosmia, is seen in a large proportion of people who get COVID-19, but is not well understood.

The study showed that K18-hACE2 mice treated with convalescent plasma and then infected with SARS-CoV-2 infection did not succumb to the infection but, like many infected patients with mild disease, had loss of smell as a major symptom.

Further investigation of the cells in the nasal passage suggested that the anosmia results from initial infection and damage to a type of cell that helps to support the function of neighboring sensory neurons that detect smell.

“The loss of sense of smell or taste occurs in a large proportion of patients who have COVID-19, whether they’re really sick or if that’s the only sign of illness they have. Most people recover their sense of smell pretty quickly, but some don’t,” says Perlman, UI professor of pediatrics, and of microbiology and immunology, and the Mark Stinski Chair in Virology. “This mouse model opens up the possibility of learning more about how that happens, and if we could understand the mechanisms of why people lose their sense of smell, this will help us treat people.”

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Repurposed mouse model sheds light on loss of smell in COVID-19

Repurposed mouse model sheds light on loss of smell in COVID-19
Stanley Perlman, MD, PhD, professor of pediatrics, and of microbiology and immunology, and Paul McCray, MD, professor of pediatrics, and of microbiology and immunology, stand in a lab at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. Perlman and McCray report that a mouse model previously created to study SARS can develop symptoms of both severe COVID-19 (lung damage, blood clots, abnormal blood vessels, and death) and also of milder disease, including loss of the sense of smell. Credit: Susan McClellen, University of Iowa Health Care Marketing and Communications

A repurposed mouse model can develop symptoms of both severe COVID-19 (lung damage, blood clots, abnormal blood vessels, and death) and also of milder disease, including loss of the sense of smell, according to a recent University of Iowa study published in Nature.

The study also showed that convalescent plasma from a patient who had recovered from COVID-19 protected the mice against lethal disease. The findings suggest the K18-hACE2 mouse model is useful for understanding a spectrum of COVID-19 disease symptoms, and for developing and testing new treatments.

When COVID-19 started spreading across the world earlier this year, UI researchers Stanley Perlman, MD, Ph.D., and Paul McCray, MD, realized that a mouse model they had created a decade earlier to study SARS might be an invaluable tool for understanding the concerning new disease and for testing potential treatments.

In the new study, Perlman, McCray, and colleagues present a detailed characterization of the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection in these K18-hACE2 mice, which are now readily available from Jackson Laboratories.

Infection with a high dose of the virus produced many of the signs of illness seen in people with severe COVID-19, including severe lung damage, abnormalities in blood vessels known as vasculitis, blood clots, and death.

“The mouse develops pretty robust lung disease that is on the severe end of the spectrum. That gives us an opportunity to investigate what’s going on with lung disease with COVID,” says McCray, UI professor of pediatrics-pulmonology, and of microbiology and immunology, and the Roy J. Carver Chair in Pulmonary Research. “Also, people who die from this disease often have vasculitis, which is unusual for coronavirus infections, and we found that the mice may develop signs of vasculitis in the liver, lung, and brain.”

One particularly interesting finding was that the infected mice lost their sense of smell. This effect, also known as anosmia, is seen in a large proportion of people who get COVID-19, but is not well understood.

The study showed that K18-hACE2 mice treated with convalescent plasma and then infected with SARS-CoV-2 infection did not succumb to the infection but, like many infected patients with mild disease, had loss of smell as a major symptom.

Further investigation of the cells in the nasal passage suggested that the anosmia results from initial infection and damage to a type of cell that helps to support the function of neighboring sensory neurons that detect smell.

“The loss of sense of smell or

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Congolese Model Challenges China’s Love For ‘Tall, Light And Skinny’

As a young black woman modelling in Hong Kong, Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga rarely saw anyone who looked like her in the magazines. Now the 22-year-old is trying to change that, one model at a time.

While the Black Lives Matter movement fuels debate and change in the fashion worlds of the United States and parts of Europe, industry figures say Asia’s beauty and body expectations remain dominated by an ideal that is pale, thin, and unrepresentative of the region.

As a young black woman modelling in Hong Kong, Harmony "Anne-Marie" Ilunga rarely saw anyone who looked like her in the magazines. Now the 22-year-old is trying to change that, one model at a time. As a young black woman modelling in Hong Kong, Harmony “Anne-Marie” Ilunga rarely saw anyone who looked like her in the magazines. Now the 22-year-old is trying to change that, one model at a time. Photo: AFPTV / Matthieu VERRIER

“I would walk into an agency and they told me that they prefer white models to black models,” Ilunga, who moved to Hong Kong as a child refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, told AFP.

“I remember just being shattered. I was 17, it just broke my heart.”

Again and again, she saw that models in the wealthy global finance hub — home to roughly 600,000 people of non-Chinese descent — were expected to be “tall, light, and skinny”.

Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga opened a small agency in Hong Kong to champion models of all skin tones and sizes Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga opened a small agency in Hong Kong to champion models of all skin tones and sizes Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE

The same was true of the massive fashion market in mainland China.

“I started lightening my skin, using lightening products… Just so that I could fit into society’s norms,” Ilunga explained.

While the Black Lives Matter movement fuels debate in the fashion world in the West, Asia's expectations are dominated by an ideal for pale and thin bodies While the Black Lives Matter movement fuels debate in the fashion world in the West, Asia’s expectations are dominated by an ideal for pale and thin bodies Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE

After rounds of rejections, in 2018 she opened her own small agency to champion models of all skin tones and sizes.

“Representation matters so much,” she said, adding she believes fashion is an accessible way to change minds — and prevent other young women from feeling they have to change.

Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga says there is still resistance to black women in Hong Kong's modelling industry Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga says there is still resistance to black women in Hong Kong’s modelling industry Photo: AFP / Peter PARKS

Ilunga’s agency now has 32 male and female models on its books from places such as Rwanda, Burundi, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Philippines.

Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga (L) moved to Hong Kong as a child refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo Harmony Anne-Marie Ilunga (L) moved to Hong Kong as a child refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE

They have enjoyed some successes — though she admits changing attitudes is hard.

One of her most booked models, she said, is an 18-year-old Burundian.

“Most are not local brands, but they are brands that are trying to promote internationally — that’s the thing,” she said of the kind of clients willing to look beyond white or Asian models.

Asia's beauty and body expectations remain dominated by an ideal that is pale, thin, and unrepresentative of the region Asia’s beauty and body expectations remain dominated by an ideal that is pale, thin, and unrepresentative of the region Photo: AFP / Anthony WALLACE

Ilunga said she has found male black models are more sought

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