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The Last of Us Part II: Why Abby Deserves Your Empathy – Flickering Myth

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Kate Harrold on The Last of Us Part II and why Abby might not be the villain she’s made out to be…

Major spoilers for The Last of Us Part II lie ahead so proceed with caution…

The Last of Us Part II has been divisive to say the least.  Naughty Dog’s long-awaited sequel was released in June to rave critic reviews earning itself an impressive score of 94 on Metacritic but just days later, the game was panned by fans. Writer and director Neil Druckmann must’ve anticipated some form of backlash as – and this is where the spoilers come in – he killed fan-favourite and lead character Joel (Troy Baker) in the first act. It’s brand new character, Abby (Laura Bailey), who did the deed – someone you’re then forced to play as for half of the game. Detractors even sent actress Bailey death threats stating, ‘I’m going to find where you live and slaughter you for what you did to Joel.’ Part of The Last of Us‘ major success is how the game challenges our morals. As the player, we become complicit in almost every action – every kill. Joel and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) relentlessly kill both clickers and non-infected alike yet we root for them. Nothing justifies what Abby did to Joel, but why shouldn’t we lend her the same kind of empathy.

Abby has a rough time in The Last of Us Part II – and that’s before fans tore her to shreds. No one in this game has it easy, but it’s clear that Abby suffers more than others. We learn that Joel killed Abby’s father. OK, so loss isn’t new but this is only the very beginning of Abby’s misfortune. In their quest to find Abby, neither Ellie nor Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce) have any hesitation in killing her friends which includes Manny, Owen, Mel, Nora, Leah, and Danny. Unlike Ellie, Abby doesn’t have somewhere like Jackson to call home. Western Liberation Front leader, Isaac (Jeffrey Wright), is clearly just using Abby and is all too happy to cast her aside. In addition to all this loss, Abby is no stranger to physical pain. She’s almost hung and disembowelled by the Seraphites and then is later captured and tortured by the Rattlers – a slaver cult. Abby is left a broken women both mentally and physically. Thematically, we also leave Ellie in a similar place but she chose to leave Dina just like she chose to leave Jackson. Abby didn’t have that choice.

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Some may argue that this is all Abby’s comeuppance for killing Joel, but would we wish the same kind of suffering upon Ellie in a potential The Last of Us Part III for her actions? No way. Abby’s arc is one of redemption which is a fact that feels hugely overlooked. Despite spending much of the game hunting Abby down, Ellie ultimately lets her live – cue outrage – but by this point in the game, Abby is on a clear path of redemption. She’s no longer the villain we assumed her to be in the first act. Abby holds her cards close to her chest but it isn’t a push to assume that she might on some level be thinking, ‘maybe I do deserve this.’ After all, why else would she save Seraphite outcast’s Yara and Lev, if not to redeem herself. Seraphites are the Western Liberation Front’s mortal enemies but this section of the game seeks to test Abby’s perception of who the enemy is. In saving their lives, she takes a step towards ending the cycle of violence. Many credit Ellie with doing this when she lets Abby live, but didn’t Abby do this much sooner? She didn’t even want to partake in the fight. Abstaining is proof of Abby’s growth and redemption.

So much of the hate directed towards Abby is simply to do with our pre-existing alliances. In The Last of Us, we become so attached to Ellie and Joel due to our complicity in both their journey and their relationship. We’re with them every step of the way and so it’s natural for us to grieve for Joel when he dies. Now this takes a little bit of imagination because there really wouldn’t be a The Last of Us without Joel and Ellie, but imagine if the first game centred around Abby and her father Jerry. Then, Part II comes along and Joel kill’s Jerry. By this point, Abby would be what Ellie is to us. We’d root for her to go after Joel and exact her revenge. We’d have no alliances to Joel whatsoever.

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The point is, there are no heroes in The Last of Us. Regardless of who we’re playing as, the ‘other’ will always be the villain. This is a game of survival – a game that asks how far would you go to survive? We can’t justify Abby’s actions, but as we so intensely love and support the equally-guilty Joel and Ellie, isn’t it hypocritical for us to condemn Abby’s actions too? This isn’t a world of good vs evil. It’s a world of messy morals. Deeming Abby to be a villain only discredits the rich narrative that is certainly worth paying more attention to.

So what did you make of The Last of Us Part II? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @FlickeringMyth…

Kate Harrold

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Amazon, Apple not to charge extra for lossless music

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Amazon.com Inc and Apple Inc will let users stream high-quality lossless audio at no extra charge, as they explore new ways to keep subscribers tuned in to their services amid intense competition.

Amazon Music, which so far charged a premium for lossless audio, became the first major music service on Monday to upgrade its subscribers to the format.

Lossless is a higher quality audio format that preserves every detail of the original audio file without compressing the quality while streaming.

American rapper Jay-Z’s Tidal was among the first to roll out the technology, charging $19.99 per month for lossless music.

The e-commerce giant’s Amazon Music Unlimited with lossless music will cost less than half that at the industry standard price of $9.99 per month.

Separately, Apple said subscribers would be able to listen to its entire music catalog of more than 75 million songs by next month in the lossless format at no additional cost.

 

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Cyberattack exposes lack of required defenses on U.S. pipelines

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The shutdown of the biggest U.S. fuel pipeline by a ransomware attack highlights a systemic vulnerability: Pipeline operators have no requirement to implement cyber defenses.

The U.S. government has had robust, compulsory cybersecurity protocols for most of the power grid for about 10 years to prevent debilitating hacks by criminals or state actors.

But the country’s 2.7 million miles (4.3 million km) of oil, natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines have only voluntary measures, which leaves security up to the individual operators, experts said.

“Simply encouraging pipelines to voluntarily adopt best practices is an inadequate response to the ever-increasing number and sophistication of malevolent cyber actors,” Richard Glick, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said.

Protections could include requirements for encryption, multifactor authentication, backup systems, personnel training and segmenting networks so access to the most sensitive elements can be restricted.

FERC’s authority to impose cyber standards on the electric grid came from a 2005 law but it does not extend to pipelines.

Colonial Pipeline, the largest U.S. oil products pipeline and source of nearly half the supply on the East Coast, has been shut since Friday after a ransomware attack the FBI attributed to DarkSide, a group cyber experts believe is based in Russia or Eastern Europe.

The outage has led to higher gasoline prices in the U.S. South and worries about wider shortages and potential price gouging ahead of the Memorial Day holiday.

Colonial did not immediately respond to a query about whether cybersecurity standards should be mandatory.

The American Petroleum Institute lobbying group said it was talking with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Energy Department and others to understand the threat and mitigate risk.

THIN STAFFING

Cyber oversight of pipelines falls to the TSA, an office of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has provided voluntary security guidelines to pipeline companies.

The General Accountability Office, the congressional watchdog, said in a 2019 report that the TSA only had six full-time employees in its pipeline security branch through 2018, which limited the office’s reviews of cybersecurity practices.

The TSA said it has since expanded staff to 34 positions on pipeline and cybersecurity. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it supports mandatory protections.

When asked by reporters whether the Biden administration would put in place rules, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said it was discussing administrative and legislative options to “raise the cyber hygiene across the country.”

President Joe Biden is hoping Congress will pass a $2.3 billion infrastructure package, and pipeline requirements could be put into that legislation. But experts said there was no quick fix.

“The hard part is who do you tell what to do and what do you tell them to do,” Christi Tezak, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, said.

U.S. Representatives Fred Upton, a Republican, and Bobby Rush, a Democrat, said on Wednesday they have reintroduced legislation requiring the Department of Energy to ensure the security of natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. Such legislation could get folded into a wider bill.

The power grid is regulated by FERC, and mostly organized into nonprofit regional organizations. That made it relatively easy for legislators to put forward the 2005 law that allows FERC to approve mandatory cyber measures.

A range of public and private companies own pipelines. They mostly operate independently and lack a robust federal regulator.

Their oversight falls under different laws depending on what they carry. Products include crude oil, fuels, water, hazardous liquids and – potentially – carbon dioxide for burial underground to control climate change. This diversity could make it harder for legislators to impose a unified requirement.

Tristan Abbey, a former aide to Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski who worked at the White House national security council under former President Donald Trump, said Congress is both the best and worst way to tackle the problem.

“Legislation may be necessary when jurisdiction is ambiguous and agencies lack resources,” said Abbey, now president of Comarus Analytics LLC.

But a bill should not be seen as a magic wand, he said.

“Standards may be part of the answer, but federal regulations need to mesh with state requirements without stifling innovation.”

 

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Marguerita Choy)

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U.S. senator asks firms about sales of hard disk drives to Huawei

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A senior Republican U.S. senator on Tuesday asked the chief executives of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Seagate Technology, and Western Digital Corp if the companies are improperly supplying Huawei with foreign-produced hard disk drives.

Senator Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Commerce Committee, said a 2020 U.S. Commerce Department regulation sought to “tighten Huawei’s ability to procure items that are the direct product of specified U.S. technology or software, such as hard disk drives.”

He said he was engaged “in a fact-finding process… about whether leading global suppliers of hard disk drives are complying” with the regulation.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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