New York’s Cardinal Dolan: Democrats have abandoned Catholics

A couple of events over the past few weeks brought to mind two towering people who had a tremendous effect on the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. more broadly. Their witness is worth remembering, especially in this political moment.

Last Saturday’s feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of our cathedral and archdiocese, reminded me of Archbishop John Hughes. As the first archbishop of New York (1842-64), “Dagger John” displayed dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants. Thousands arrived daily in New York — penniless, starving and sometimes ill — only to be met with hostility, bigotry and injustice.

An immigrant himself, Hughes prophetically and vigorously defended their dignity. Because the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants, he initiated Catholic schools to provide children with a good education sensitive to their religion and to prepare them as responsible, patriotic citizens. The schools worked. Many remain open to this day, their mission unchanged.

The second event was the recent funeral of a great African-American woman, Dolores Grier. A convert to Catholicism, she was named vice chancellor of the archdiocese three decades ago by Cardinal John O’Connor; she was the first layperson and first woman to hold the prestigious position. Grier was passionate about civil rights, especially the right to life of babies in the womb. She never missed an opportunity to defend, lovingly but forcefully, their right to life.

Grier attributed her pro-life sensitivity to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who preached that abortion was an act of genocide against minorities. No wonder, she often observed, abortuaries were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods. The statistics today confirm her observation: In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758), according to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758).

The values Archbishop Hughes and Dolores Grier cherished — the dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby’s civil rights — were, and still are, widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.”

Such is no longer the case, a cause of sadness to many Catholics, me included. The two causes so vigorously promoted by Hughes and Grier—the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb — largely have been rejected by the party of our youth. An esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party. Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

It is particularly chilly for us here in the state Hughes and Grier proudly called their earthly home. In recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants.

More sobering, what is already the most radical abortion license in the country may soon be even more morbidly expanded. For instance, under the proposed Reproductive Health Act, doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn simply would be allowed to die without any legal implications. And abortions would be legal up to the moment of birth.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent. Annafi Wahed, a former staffer to Hillary Clinton, recently wrote in this newspaper about her experience attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. She complimented the conservative attendees, pointing out that most made her feel welcome at their meeting. They listened attentively to her views — a courtesy, she had to admit, that would not be given to them at a meeting of political liberals.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent.

I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier, and Grandma Dolan, I’m sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true.

Cardinal Dolan is archbishop of New York.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/03/24/new-yorks-cardinal-dolan-democrats-have-abandoned-catholics.html

What Are Screens Doing to Our Eyesand Our Ability to See?

The eyes are unwell. Their childhood suppleness is lost. The lenses, as we log hours on this earth, thicken, stiffen, even calcify. The eyes are no longer windows on souls. They’re closer to teeth.

To see if your own eyes are hardening, look no further than your phone, which should require no exertion; you’re probably already there. Keep peering at your screen, reading and staring, snubbing life’s third dimension and natural hues. The first sign of the eyes’ becoming teeth is the squinting at phones. Next comes the reflexive extending of the arm, the impulse to resize letters into the preschool range. And at last the buying of drugstore readers.

Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She is the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. She is also a cohost of Trumpcast, an op-ed columnist at the Los Angeles Times, and a frequent contributor to Politico. Before coming to WIRED she was a staff writer at the New York Times—first a TV critic, then a magazine columnist, and then an opinion writer. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and PhD in English from Harvard. In 1979 she stumbled onto the internet, when it was the back office of weird clerics, and she’s been in the thunderdome ever since.

Modern medicine offers little apart from magnifying glasses to treat presbyopia (from the Greek presbus, meaning “old man”). But those $3.99 specs will get you on your feet just fine, which is to say, you can once again relish your phone without squinting or arm-stretching. A remedy for farsightedness evidently succeeds to the degree that it restores a woman or man to the comfortable consumption of texts, email, ecommerce, and social media on a glazed rectangle of aluminum alloys held at a standard reading distance of 16 inches. With reading glasses we live again.

Doesn’t this seem like an unwholesome loop? The eyes may be unwell, but the primary object of our eyesight seems corrosive. We measure our vision against the phone, all the while suspecting the phone itself is compromising our ability to see it.

Even if we don’t say out loud that failing vision has something to do with our vastly narrowed visual field, our bodies seem to know what’s up. How convenient, for example, that you can turn up a phone’s contrast and brightness with a few taps. If perception can’t be improved, objects can be made more perceivable, right? But then the brightness seems, like morphine, to produce a need for more brightness, and you find yourself topping out, hitting the button in vain for more light only to realize that’s it. You’ve blinded yourself to the light that was already there.

Having recently, in my forties, gotten reading glasses, I now find myself having to choose between reading and being, since I can’t read without them and I can’t see the world with them. The glasses date from a time when reading was much rarer a pastime than being; you’d grope for them to see a book, while relying on your naked eyes for driving, talking, walking.

But of course now so many of us read all day long. And I opt to flood my field of vision with the merry play of pixels and emoji rather than the less scintillating, brown-gray “real world.” This means wearing the reading glasses, even on the street, and affecting blindness to everything but my phone.

What might modern vision be today without the phone as its reason for being? If you were a nomadic goatherd in the Mongolian grasslands, you might not even consider presbyopia a pathology. Many nomads carry cell phones for calls and music, but, except to play games, they rarely gaze at them. Instead, they rest their eyes on the ever-moving flock, alert to vagaries in the animals’ collective configuration and inclinations; but simultaneously they soften the vision to wide angle, so as to detect peripheral anomalies and threats. On camelback in the wide-open grasslands, the eyes line easily with the horizon, which means their eyes take in distance, proximity, an unpixelated spectrum, and unsimulated movement. A panoramic view of the horizon line roots the beholder in the geometer’s simplest concepts of perspective: foreshortening, a vanishing point, linearity, and the changeable shadows cast by the movement of the sun over and under the horizon line. That third dimension—depth—is never, ever forgotten by the nomads. The sun rises and sets on depth.

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Nik Mirus

Depending on your after-hours curriculum in Mongolia (cooking, talking, playing the fiddle), you might rarely even need to do what digital moderns never stop doing: recruit the eye’s ciliary muscle and contract it, releasing tension in the ligaments that suspend the eye to acutely curve the lens and train it to a pixelated 1.4-milimeter letter x on, for instance, a mobile news app. If you explained to a nomad the failures of her aging eyes, she might shrug: Who needs anxious ciliary muscles?

Indeed. And the use of those muscles by digital moderns gets even more complicated when we encounter our x’s not on paper—carbon-­black ink, like liquid soot, inscribed on bleached pulpwood—but on screens. That’s where we come across the quivering and uncertain symbols that play across the—surface, is it? Where are they exactly? Somewhere on or in our devices. No wonder the eyes are unwell.

Every vocation has consequences for eyesight. Ice fishermen can go snowblind. Welders suffer arc eye. Ships’ lookouts hallucinate. Academics develop myopia. And texters—call it an avocation—have blurred vision.

There are at least two recorded cases of something called smartphone blindness. The New England Journal of Medicine notes that both patients had been reading their phones in bed, on their sides, faces half-hidden, in the dark. “We hypothesized that the symptoms were due to differential bleaching of photo-­pigment, with the viewing eye becoming light-adapted.” Differential bleaching of the eyes! Fortunately, smartphone blindness of this kind is transient.

The blanket term for screen-borne eyesight problems is computer vision syndrome, an unsatisfactory name given to the blurring, dry eyes, and headaches suffered by the people of the screen. The name is unsatisfactory because, like many syndromes, it describes a set of phenomena without situating them in a coherent narrative—medical or otherwise. For contrast, arc eye is a burn: Welders get it from their exposure to bright ultraviolet light. Snowblindness is caused when corneas are sunburned by light reflecting off snow. Hallucinations afflict lookouts because, as Ishmael explains in Moby-Dick, they’re up at odd hours and alone, parsing the “blending cadence of waves with thoughts” for danger, whales, or other vessels; the brain and eyes are inclined to make meaning and mirages of undifferentiated land- and seascapes where none exist.

Computer vision syndrome is not nearly as romantic. The American Optometric Association uses it to describe the discomfort that people report feeling after looking at screens for a “prolonged” period of time. When screens pervade the field of vision all day, what counts as prolonged? (Moreover, reports of discomfort seem like not much to predicate a whole syndrome on.) But the AOA’s treatment of the syndrome is intriguing. This is the so-called 20-20-20 rule, which asks that screen people take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

The remedy helps us reverse-engineer the syndrome. This suffering is thought to be a function not of blue light or intrusive ads or bullying and other scourges. It’s thought to be a function of unbroken concentration on a screen 8 inches to 2 feet from the eyes. The person suffering eyestrain is taught to look 20 feet away but she might presumably look at a painting or a wall. Twenty feet, though, suggests it’s depth she may be thirsty for.

The naming of a syndrome discharges the latest anxiety about screens, which have always been a source of social suspicion. People who are glued to screens to the exclusion of other people are regarded with disdain: narcissistic, withholding, deceitful, sneaky. This was true even with the panels that prefigured electronic screens, including shoji, as well as mirrors and newspaper broadsheets. The mirror-gazer may have been the first selfie fanatic, and in the heyday of mirrors the truly vain had handheld mirrors they toted around the way we carry phones. And hand fans and shoji—forget it. The concealing and revealing of faces allowed by fans and translucent partitions suggest the masquerade and deceptions of social media. An infatuation with screens can easily slide into a moral failing.

Not long ago a science writer named Gabriel Popkin began leading tree walks for city dwellers in Washington, DC, whose monomaniacal attention to screens had left them tree-blind. That’s right, tree blindness—and the broader concept of blindness to the natural world—might actually be the real danger screens pose to vision. In 2012, Popkin had learned about trees to cure this blindness in himself and went from a naif who could barely pick out an oak tree to an amateur arboriculturist who can distinguish hundreds of trees. The biggest living beings in his city suddenly seemed like friends to him, with features he could recognize and relish.

I opt to flood my field of vision with the merry play of pixels and emoji rather than the brown-gray “real world.” This means wearing reading glasses, even on the street, and affecting blindness to everything but my phone.

Once he could see trees, they became objects of intense interest to him—more exhilarating than apps, if you can believe it. “Take a moment to watch and listen to a flowering redbud tree full of pollen-drunk bumblebees,” he has written. “I promise you won’t be bored.”

If computer vision syndrome has been invented as a catch-all to express a whole range of fears, those fears may not be confined to what blue light or too much close-range texting are doing to the eyesight. Maybe the syndrome is a broader blindness—eyes that don’t know how to see and minds that increasingly don’t know how to recognize nondigital artifacts, especially nature.

Lately, when I pull away from the screen to stare into the middle distance for a spell, I take off my glasses. I try to find a tree. If I’m inside, I open a window; if I’m outside, I will even approach a tree. I don’t want mediation or glass. The trees are still strangers; I hardly know their names yet, but I’m testing myself on leaf shapes and shades of green. All I know so far is that trees are very unlike screens. They’re a prodigious interface. Very buggy. When my eyes settle after a minute or two, I—what’s that expression, “the scales fell from my eyes”? It’s almost, at times, like that.

Read More

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Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is a contributing editor at WIRED and the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.

This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/failing-vision-screens-blindness/

Why Zuckerbergs 14-Year Apology Tour Hasnt Fixed Facebook

In 2003, one year before Facebook was founded, a website called Facemash began nonconsensually scraping pictures of students at Harvard from the school’s intranet and asking users to rate their hotness. Obviously, it caused an outcry. The website’s developer quickly proffered an apology. "I hope you understand, this is not how I meant for things to go, and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect to consider how quickly the site would spread and its consequences thereafter,” wrote a young Mark Zuckerberg. “I definitely see how my intentions could be seen in the wrong light.”

In 2004 Zuckerberg cofounded Facebook, which rapidly spread from Harvard to other universities. And in 2006 the young company blindsided its users with the launch of News Feed, which collated and presented in one place information that people had previously had to search for piecemeal. Many users were shocked and alarmed that there was no warning and that there were no privacy controls. Zuckerberg apologized. “This was a big mistake on our part, and I'm sorry for it,” he wrote on Facebook’s blog. "We really messed this one up," he said. "We did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them."

Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina and an opinion writer for The New York Times. She recently wrote about the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech.

Then in 2007, Facebook’s Beacon advertising system, which was launched without proper controls or consent, ended up compromising user privacy by making people’s purchases public. Fifty thousand Facebook users signed an e-petition titled “Facebook: Stop invading my privacy.” Zuckerberg responded with an apology: “We simply did a bad job with this release and I apologize for it." He promised to improve. “I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation and I know we can do better,” he wrote.

By 2008, Zuckerberg had written only four posts on Facebook’s blog: Every single one of them was an apology or an attempt to explain a decision that had upset users.

In 2010, after Facebook violated users' privacy by making key types of information public without proper consent or warning, Zuckerberg again responded with an apology—this time published in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “We just missed the mark,” he said. “We heard the feedback,” he added. “There needs to be a simpler way to control your information.” “In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use,” he promised.

I’m going to run out of space here, so let’s jump to 2018 and skip over all the other mishaps and apologies and promises to do better—oh yeah, and the consent decree that the Federal Trade Commission made Facebook sign in 2011, charging that the company had deceptively promised privacy to its users and then repeatedly broken that promise—in the intervening years.

Last month, Facebook once again garnered widespread attention with a privacy related backlash when it became widely known that, between 2008 and 2015, it had allowed hundreds, maybe thousands, of apps to scrape voluminous data from Facebook users—not just from the users who had downloaded the apps, but detailed information from all their friends as well. One such app was run by a Cambridge University academic named Aleksandr Kogan, who apparently siphoned up detailed data on up to 87 million users in the United States and then surreptitiously forwarded the loot to the political data firm Cambridge Analytica. The incident caused a lot of turmoil because it connects to the rolling story of distortions in the 2016 US presidential election. But in reality, Kogan’s app was just one among many, many apps that amassed a huge amount of information in a way most Facebook users were completely unaware of.

At first Facebook indignantly defended itself, claiming that people had consented to these terms; after all, the disclosures were buried somewhere in the dense language surrounding obscure user privacy controls. People were asking for it, in other words.

But the backlash wouldn’t die down. Attempting to respond to the growing outrage, Facebook announced changes. “It’s Time to Make Our Privacy Tools Easier to Find”, the company announced without a hint of irony—or any other kind of hint—that Zuckerberg had promised to do just that in the “coming few weeks” eight full years ago. On the company blog, Facebook’s chief privacy editor wrote that instead of being “spread across nearly 20 different screens” (why were they ever spread all over the place?), the controls would now finally be in one place.

Zuckerberg again went on an apology tour, giving interviews to The New York Times, CNN, Recode, WIRED, and Vox (but not to the Guardian and Observer reporters who broke the story). In each interview he apologized. “I’m really sorry that this happened,” he told CNN. “This was certainly a breach of trust.”

But Zuckerberg didn’t stop at an apology this time. He also defended Facebook as an “idealistic company” that cares about its users and spoke disparagingly about rival companies that charge users money for their products while maintaining a strong record in protecting user privacy. In his interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, Zuckerberg said that anyone who believes Apple cares more about users than Facebook does has “Stockholm syndrome”—the phenomenon whereby hostages start sympathizing and identifying with their captors.

This is an interesting argument coming from the CEO of Facebook, a company that essentially holds its users' data hostage. Yes, Apple charges handsomely for its products, but it also includes advanced encryption hardware on all its phones, delivers timely security updates to its whole user base, and has largely locked itself out of user data—to the chagrin of many governments, including that of the United States, and of Facebook itself.

Most Android phones, by contrast, gravely lag behind in receiving security updates, have no specialized encryption hardware, and often handle privacy controls in a way that is detrimental to user interests. Few governments or companies complain about Android phones. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it came to light that Facebook had been downloading and keeping all the text messages of its users on the Android platform—their content as well as their metadata. “The users consented!” Facebook again cried out. But people were soon posting screenshots that showed how difficult it was for a mere mortal to discern that’s what was going on, let alone figure out how to opt out, on the vague permission screen that flashed before users.

On Apple phones, however, Facebook couldn’t harvest people’s text messages because the permissions wouldn’t allow it.

In the same interview, Zuckerberg took wide aim at the oft-repeated notion that, if an online service is free, you—the user—are the product. He said that he found the argument that “if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you, to be extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth.” His rebuttal to that accusation, however, was itself glib; and as for whether it was aligned with the truth—well, we just have to take his word for it. “To the dissatisfaction of our sales team here,” he said, “I make all of our decisions based on what’s going to matter to our community and focus much less on the advertising side of the business.”

As far as I can tell, not once in his apology tour was Zuckerberg asked what on earth he means when he refers to Facebook’s 2 billion-plus users as “a community” or “the Facebook community.” A community is a set of people with reciprocal rights, powers, and responsibilities. If Facebook really were a community, Zuckerberg would not be able to make so many statements about unilateral decisions he has made—often, as he boasts in many interviews, in defiance of Facebook’s shareholders and various factions of the company’s workforce. Zuckerberg’s decisions are final, since he controls all the voting stock in Facebook, and always will until he decides not to—it’s just the way he has structured the company.

This isn’t a community; this is a regime of one-sided, highly profitable surveillance, carried out on a scale that has made Facebook one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization.

Facebook’s 2 billion users are not Facebook’s “community.” They are its user base, and they have been repeatedly carried along by the decisions of the one person who controls the platform. These users have invested time and money in building their social networks on Facebook, yet they have no means to port the connectivity elsewhere. Whenever a serious competitor to Facebook has arisen, the company has quickly copied it (Snapchat) or purchased it (WhatsApp, Instagram), often at a mind-boggling price that only a behemoth with massive cash reserves could afford. Nor do people have any means to completely stop being tracked by Facebook. The surveillance follows them not just on the platform, but elsewhere on the internet—some of them apparently can’t even text their friends without Facebook trying to snoop in on the conversation. Facebook doesn’t just collect data itself; it has purchased external data from data brokers; it creates “shadow profiles” of nonusers and is now attempting to match offline data to its online profiles.

Again, this isn’t a community; this is a regime of one-sided, highly profitable surveillance, carried out on a scale that has made Facebook one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization.

There is no other way to interpret Facebook’s privacy invading moves over the years—even if it’s time to simplify! finally!―as anything other than decisions driven by a combination of self-serving impulses: namely, profit motives, the structural incentives inherent to the company’s business model, and the one-sided ideology of its founders and some executives. All these are forces over which the users themselves have little input, aside from the regular opportunity to grouse through repeated scandals. And even the ideology—a vague philosophy that purports to prize openness and connectivity with little to say about privacy and other values—is one that does not seem to apply to people who run Facebook or work for it. Zuckerberg buys houses surrounding his and tapes over his computer’s camera to preserve his own privacy, and company employees went up in arms when a controversial internal memo that made an argument for growth at all costs was recently leaked to the press—a nonconsensual, surprising, and uncomfortable disclosure of the kind that Facebook has routinely imposed upon its billions of users over the years.

This isn’t to say Facebook doesn’t provide real value to its users, even as it locks them in through network effects and by crushing, buying, and copying its competition. I wrote a whole book in which I document, among other things, how useful Facebook has been to anticensorship efforts around the world. It doesn’t even mean that Facebook executives make all decisions merely to increase the company valuation or profit, or that they don’t care about users. But multiple things can be true at the same time; all of this is quite complicated. And fundamentally, Facebook’s business model and reckless mode of operating are a giant dagger threatening the health and well-being of the public sphere and the privacy of its users in many countries.

So, here’s the thing. There is indeed a case of Stockholm syndrome here. There are very few other contexts in which a person would be allowed to make a series of decisions that have obviously enriched them while eroding the privacy and well-being of billions of people; to make basically the same apology for those decisions countless times over the space of just 14 years; and then to profess innocence, idealism, and complete independence from the obvious structural incentives that have shaped the whole process. This should ordinarily cause all the other educated, literate, and smart people in the room to break into howls of protest or laughter. Or maybe tears.

Facebook has tens of thousands of employees, and reportedly an open culture with strong internal forums. Insiders often talk of how free employees feel to speak up, and indeed I’ve repeatedly been told how they are encouraged to disagree and discuss all the key issues. Facebook has an educated workforce.

By now, it ought to be plain to them, and to everyone, that Facebook’s 2 billion-plus users are surveilled and profiled, that their attention is then sold to advertisers and, it seems, practically anyone else who will pay Facebook—including unsavory dictators like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. That is Facebook’s business model. That is why the company has an almost half-a-trillion-dollar market capitalization, along with billions in spare cash to buy competitors.

These are such readily apparent facts that any denial of them is quite astounding.

And yet, it appears that nobody around Facebook’s sovereign and singular ruler has managed to convince their leader that these are blindingly obvious truths whose acceptance may well provide us with some hints of a healthier way forward. That the repeated word of the use “community” to refer Facebook’s users is not appropriate and is, in fact, misleading. That the constant repetition of “sorry” and “we meant well” and “we will fix it this time!” to refer to what is basically the same betrayal over 14 years should no longer be accepted as a promise to do better, but should instead be seen as but one symptom of a profound crisis of accountability. When a large chorus of people outside the company raises alarms on a regular basis, it’s not a sufficient explanation to say, “Oh we were blindsided (again).”

Maybe, just maybe, that is the case of Stockholm syndrome we should be focusing on.

Zuckerberg’s outright denial that Facebook’s business interests play a powerful role in shaping its behavior doesn’t bode well for Facebook’s chances of doing better in the future. I don’t doubt that the company has, on occasion, held itself back from bad behavior. That doesn’t make Facebook that exceptional, nor does it excuse its existing choices, nor does it alter the fact that its business model is fundamentally driving its actions.

At a minimum, Facebook has long needed an ombudsman’s office with real teeth and power: an institution within the company that can act as a check on its worst impulses and to protect its users. And it needs a lot more employees whose task is to keep the platform healthier. But what would truly be disruptive and innovative would be for Facebook to alter its business model. Such a change could come from within, or it could be driven by regulations on data retention and opaque, surveillance-based targeting—regulations that would make such practices less profitable or even forbidden.

Facebook will respond to the latest crisis by keeping more of its data within its own walls (of course, that fits well with the business of charging third parties for access to users based on extensive profiling with data held by Facebook, so this is no sacrifice). Sure, it’s good that Facebook is now promising not to leak user data to unscrupulous third parties; but it should finally allow truly independent researchers better (and secure, not reckless) access to the company’s data in order to investigate the true effects of the platform. Thus far, Facebook has not cooperated with independent researchers who want to study it. Such investigation would be essential to informing the kind of political discussion we need to have about the trade-offs inherent in how Facebook, and indeed all of social media, operate.

Even without that independent investigation, one thing is clear: Facebook’s sole sovereign is neither equipped to, nor should he be in a position to, make all these decisions by himself, and Facebook’s long reign of unaccountability should end.


Facebook in Crisis

  • Initially, Facebook said that Cambridge Analytica got unauthorized access to some 50 million users' data. The social network has now raised that number to 87 million.
  • Next week, Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress. The question on our minds: How can Facebook prevent the next crisis if its guiding principle is and always has been connection at all cost?
  • Facebook has a long history of privacy gaffes. Here are just a few.

Photograph by WIRED/Getty Images

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/why-zuckerberg-15-year-apology-tour-hasnt-fixed-facebook/

This Brutal Anti-PETA Rant Is Going Viral, And People Are Shocked To Learn About Their Hypocrisy

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, but not everyone thinks they’re very righteous. For example, Calum Mcswiggan claims people shouldn’t donate money to them at all. Considering that PETA is funded almost exclusively by member contributions (according to their official 2017 financial statement, contributions amassed to roughly 96% of their $48,5M revenue), it’s basically saying that the organization should cease to exist. Someone, however, fully agree with Calum and have continued his line of thought, offering more examples why no one should give them money. As their intense rant went viral, people were shocked by most of the claims. Scroll down to read the text and let us know what you think about it in the comment section.

PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world, has been under fire for quite some time now

Photo by Robert Sebree for peta2.com

But this emotional rant is trying to uncover the big picture

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Source: petakillsanimals.com

Image source: Former PETA employee

Source: nathanwinograd.com

Source: peta.org

Source: gizmodo.com

Shearer Sean Harrison holds a freshly shorn sheep in response to a social media campaign by PETA featuring musician Jona Weinhofen. (Source: abc.net.au)

Source: nathanwinograd.com / theatlantic.com

Source: time.com

Source: peta.org

Source: digitaljournal.com

Source: usatoday.com

Source: nbcnews.com

Ahoskie Police Detective Sgt. Jeremy Roberts prepares to bury a puppy killed by PETA. This puppy and dozens of other animals including cats and kittens were found by police throughout June of 2005 after PETA employees dumped them in a garbage bin in North Carolina. (Source: nathanwinograd.com)

Source: huffingtonpost.com

People were shocked to learn the harsh truth the American organization doesn’t want them to know

What do you think? Does PETA help or harm the animals they claim to protect? Let’s talk below

Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/anti-peta-hate-rant-dear-tumb1r/

WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water

Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the worlds most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.

In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

In one bottle of Nestl Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.

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A colourful microfibre of plastic found in bottled water. Photograph: Abigail Barrows

According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.

Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.

The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab.

The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestle Pure Life (Nestle), San Pellegrino (Nestle) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).

A World Health Organisation spokesman told the Guardian that although there was not yet any evidence on impacts on human health, it was aware it was an emerging area of concern. The spokesman said the WHO would review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment.

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US.It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestle, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.

Plastic microfibres are easily airborne. Clearly thats occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn, she said.

Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic because people are paying a premium for these products.

Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, its a triple whammy.

Nestle criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could generate false positives.

Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products.

A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.

Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was unclear. The American Beverage Association said it stood by the safety of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.

The Guardian contacted Nestle and Boxed Water for comment on the Story of Stuff study, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/microplastics-found-in-more-than-90-of-bottled-water-study-says

Stephen Hawking Dies At 76, And Heres How The Internet Responds

British Physicist Stephen Hawking, the most iconic and brilliant scientist of his generation, has died aged 76.

Despite a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks the nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, leading to paralysis, Hawking was able to bring to light several groundbreaking theories in the field of quantum physics, while making the complex field accessible to millions through a series of bestselling books.

Hawking was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in 1963, after experiencing difficulties with his movements in his final year at Oxford University. He was given just two years to live by doctors at the time, but went on to live with it for more than 50 years, an incredibly long time for an ALS sufferer. Unfortunately there is still very little known about the causes of ALS, and currently no cure. You may remember the successful awareness raising campaign for ALS that went viral a couple of years back, the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge.’ $115 million dollars were raised for research into the disease, resulting in some important discoveries.

Devastated by his diagnosis, Hawking nevertheless continued his work while his physical capabilities declined. Despite all of the setbacks he encountered, he always found ways to overcome them. He got around in a motorized wheelchair, and was able to communicate through an automated speech system, which gave him his iconic, computerized voice.

As well as his achievements in the field of quantum physics, and his determined quest to find a ‘unified theory’ that would aid us in our goal to gain a ‘complete understanding of the events around us, and of our own existence,’ Hawking’s celebrity helped to popularize and bring cosmology to a whole new generation of people.

His bestselling books and appearances on TV shows such as The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory helped to promote an enthusiasm for science that will endure well beyond his passing. He has opened the door for present and future scientists through his brilliant theories and discoveries, his determination in the face of adversity, and his inspiration to millions of people all over the world. He will be sorely missed.

Stephen Hawking has passed away at age 76

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Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/stephen-hawking-died-world-pays-tribute/

Stem cell transplant ‘game changer’ for MS patients

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Media caption“I’d given up hope”: Louise Willetts says she is completely well following her treatment

Doctors say a stem cell transplant could be a “game changer” for many patients with multiple sclerosis.

Results from an international trial show that it was able to stop the disease and improve symptoms.

It involves wiping out a patient’s immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant.

Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham, is now symptom-free and told me: “It feels like a miracle.”

A total of 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Just over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paolo in Brazil.

They all had relapsing remitting MS – where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission.

The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Nerve connections become damaged in people with MS

The patients received either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment.

After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group.

After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group.

Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group.

Prof Richard Burt, lead investigator, Northwestern University Chicago, told me: “The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs – the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that.”


Multiple sclerosis

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition which can affect the brain and/or spinal cord
  • It can cause problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance
  • Average life expectancy is slightly reduced
  • It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 people diagnosed with MS in the UK

Source: NHS


The treatment uses chemotherapy to destroy the faulty immune system.

Stem cells taken from the patient’s blood and bone marrow are then re-infused.

These are unaffected by MS and they rebuild the immune system.

Prof John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “We are thrilled with the results – they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis”.

Prof Basil Sharrock, neurologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: “This is interim analysis, but with that caveat, this is the best result I have seen in any trial for multiple sclerosis.”

‘Lived in fear’

Louise was diagnosed with MS in 2010 when she was only 28.

She told me: “MS ruled my life and I lived in fear of the next relapse.

“The worst time was not being able to get out of bed because I had no stability in my body – I struggled to walk and even spent time in a wheelchair.

“It also affected my cognition – it was like a brain fog and I misread words and struggled to keep up with conversations.”

The BBC’s Panorama filmed her undergoing her transplant in October 2015 and she is now back to full health.

She got married to her partner Steve, on the first anniversary of her transplant, and their baby daughter Joy is now a month old.

“I feel like my diagnosis was just a bad dream. I live every day as I want to, rather than planning my life around my MS.”

The transplant costs around £30,000, about the same as the annual price of some MS drugs.

Doctors stress it is not suitable for all MS patients and the process can be gruelling, involving chemotherapy and a few weeks in isolation in hospital.

Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at the MS Society, said the stem cell transplant HSCT “will soon be recognised as an established treatment in England – and when that happens our priority will be making sure those who could benefit can actually get it”.

She added: “We’ve seen life-changing results for some people and having that opportunity can’t depend on your postcode.”

Follow Fergus on Twitter.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43435868

Watch Ted Cruz’s Reaction When Asked To Take A DNA Test To Prove He’s Human

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was issued an unusual challenge on Tuesday night when a constituent asked him if he’d take a DNA test. 

Tammy Talpas read a statement to Cruz saying she was worried about her access to health care due to seven pre-existing conditions. 

“If you force me into a high-risk pool, you will either bankrupt me or kill me,” she said. “I take these threats of medical aggression personally and seriously, and I can assure you I’m not the only Texan who does. My question is: Will you pledge to submit to a DNA test to prove that you’re human?”

Cruz didn’t directly answer. 

“Well, ma’am, thank you for that, and one of the great things about our democratic system is we can treat each other with respect and civility,” he said. 

“Is that a yes or a no?” she shot back. 

“Ma’am, if you want to engage in insults, that’s your prerogative, but I’m not going to reciprocate,” he said.  

(h/t The Hill)

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ted-cruz-dna-test_us_5ac59a0fe4b056a8f5982f9e

5 Surprising Ways The World Is Secretly Looking Out For You

Very few professions are out there actively trying to keep you alive. Firefighters, doctors, uh … erotic bakers? What even is life without a good dong cake? But that’s pretty much it, right? Nope. We’ve told you before how some famously “good” organizations are secretly doing awful things. Now let us restore some of that lost faith in humanity by showing you the other side of the coin …

5

Illinois Is Training Hairdressers To Recognize Domestic Violence

When you’re stuck making awkward chitchat with your hairdresser for extended periods of time, some secrets are bound to slip out. That was more or less the thinking behind a recent state ruling in Illinois, which now requires salon workers be trained to recognize signs of domestic abuse and sexual assault. It’s not as easy as saying, “So, uh, has the hubby punched you lately?” and reporting it to the authorities. In fact, calling 9-1-1 yourself is a big no-no. Instead, salon workers are taught to 1) encourage their clients open up on their own speed, 2) listen compassionately, and 3) provide support and information about professional resources.

While this is not a new idea, Illinois is the first state to actually require cosmetologists to go through the one-hour training class every two years if they want to renew their licenses. Now 14 other states, including New York and Wyoming, are working on similar laws and initiatives. Sometimes, asking for frosted tips is a cry for help, and salon workers are here to answer it.

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One UK City Recruited Plumbers And Handymen To Spot Child Abuse

Plumbers are used to dealing with problems most of us wouldn’t touch with several ten-foot poles stuck together. It’s appropriate, then, that the city of Lincoln, England recruited them (along with repair men, electricians, and housing officers) to spot and report child abuse and neglect. Since it can take a while to fix a sink or unclog a toilet, the city trained contractors to keep an eye out for signs that the children of the household might be in danger. For instance, if a kid is wearing long sleeves on a really hot day, that might be less about making a fashion statement and more about hiding bruises. Things like scalds and cigarette burns are dead giveaways for physical abuse, but the checklist includes other signs of trouble, like unexplained mood changes, avoidance of certain family members, or … well … pregnancy.

Yeah …

Hey, here’s a puppy being perplexed by a mirror:

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Facebook Uses Their Creepy Algorithms To Fight Suicide

Facebook is simultaneously one of the most popular things to have ever existed and one of the most criticized, for many, many reasons. But while the amount of information Facebook has on each of us will never not be creepy, they’re doing at least one positive thing with all those fancy algorithms: helping spot suicidal users in real time. Basically, Facebook’s giant decentralized brain pores through billions of posts, trying to find patterns that correlate to suicidal thoughts, in the hope that maybe they can save a few lives. When a user is flagged as suicidal, a Facebook moderator can immediately get in touch and send them helpful resources, or even contact local first responders. Oh, and this is where all those “friends” come in handy, since health experts claim that hearing from a bud is one of the best ways to prevent a suicide. The moderator can make that happen, too.

Facebook

FacebookThe “Talk to someone” option really needs a “(Not that racist guy from high school)” disclaimer, though.

Within one month of testing, Facebook says they’ve initiated over 100 wellness checks, helping first responders reach troubled users before they did anything rash. Considering the disturbing trend of teens committing suicide via livestreaming services (like Facebook’s own), and the fact that suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people aged 15-24, an idea like this could have a real impact on young people. Why, it almost makes up for the sin of inventing Facebook in the first place.

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Tattoo Artists And Beauticians Are Being Taught To Watch Out For Skin Cancer

Both tattoo artists and beauticians have to look at your greasy, pockmarked skin for extended periods of time. Why not make the most of it? Specialists have started training them to identify signs of skin cancer on their customers, so people might receive earlier treatment and thus have better chances of survival. On the beautician side, researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Colorado Denver collaborated on this training video designed to teach hairdressers about melanoma and how to recognize lesions.

University of Southern California and University of Colorado DenverIf you don’t have melanoma, but also don’t have a face, definitely talk to a doctor anyway.

Meanwhile, tattoo artists have gone from hindering melanoma detection (because a lot of people specifically ask to cover up ugly moles) to presenting a great opportunity to raise awareness of the subject. The artist doesn’t have to be an expert on skin cancer; they just have to know the basic warning signs and pass that information on to the public. And it’s working! From the U.S. to Australia to Brazil, multiple referrals, diagnoses, and successful treatments have resulted from hairdressers and tattoo artists being like, “Uh … this black thing consuming your face might not be normal.”

1

Cab Drivers, Flight Attendants, Bankers, And UPS Are All Fighting Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a subject most of us don’t even like thinking about, but people far braver than us are tackling the problem head-on. And it’s not who you might expect.

First up, cabbies. Taxi drivers are being trained by authorities in New York, London, Houston, and Canada to spot victims of sexual exploitation. They’re looking out for certain telltale signs in their passengers: young people travelling long distances and paying high fees in cash, requesting collections from house parties, hotels, or B&Bs, and travelling with just huge, huuuge jerks. Even Uber, that trash bag of a company, decided to start educating their drivers about this issue after one of them saved a soon-to-be-trafficked underage girl in California in 2016.

Next up on unlikely sources of help: bankers. The European Bankers Alliance recently released a toolkit that searches for red flags indicating that slavery is involved in a financial transaction. But we know what you’re thinking: What about UPS drivers? Yep, them too. In a program started in January 2017, UPS freight drivers all over the country undergo training to recognize signs of human trafficking, with help from the Truckers Against Trafficking organization. (Oh right, truckers help too!)

Of course, some traffickers prefer to move their “cargo” through more luxurious means … and that’s where flight attendants come in. Since 2009, Airline Ambassadors International has been training flight attendants to look out for common signs of human trafficking, and their efforts quickly paid off. In 2011, a flight attendant on a flight to California noticed a disheveled teenage girl flying with a well-dressed older man and left a note in the bathroom for her to find. She did, and rescue swiftly followed. According to an ABC report …

86 children were freed from a sex ring in Boston after the trafficker and two crying victims were noticed on a flight.

Yep, kids crying on a plane saved the day. Forgive us as we reconsider everything we know about life.

Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs. S.S.A is also on TopBuzz. Check him out here. Look out for more mind-blowing facts on Markos’ Twitter.

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For more, check out 6 Horrifying Ways Society Repaid Good Deeds and 5 Inspiring Acts of Kindness by Terrifying Crime Syndicates.

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Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25470_5-surprising-ways-world-secretly-looking-out-you.html

31 Ridiculous Things Husbands Have Said to Their Wives That Will Have You Saying, Been There

One of the most important things about marriage is to have a sense of humor through better or worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall tweet. And for these hilarious husbands, they seem to have gotten the memo.

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Read more: http://twentytwowords.com/ridiculous-things-husbands-have-said-to-their-wives-that-will-have-you-saying-been-there-ia/