The Mammoth Pirates

Amos Chapple (RFE/RL): With the sale of elephant tusks under close scrutiny, “ethical ivory” from the extinct woolly mammoth is now feeding an insatiable market in China. This rush on mammoth ivory is luring a fresh breed of miner – the tusker – into the Russian wilderness and creating dollar millionaires in some of the poorest villages of Siberia.

The Mammoth Pirates

This 65-kilogram tusk, photographed a moment after it was plucked from the permafrost, was sold for $34,000. The two men who found it unearthed three more in just over a week, including one weighing 72 kilograms.

Ravaged landscape is the obvious result of the tusk hunters’ methods, but the impact on Yakutia’s waterways is far-reaching.

See also

Progression and regression

The Mammoth Pirates

On condition that he not reveal names or exact locations, RFE/RL photographer Amos Chapple gained exclusive access to one site where between bouts of vodka-fueled chaos and days spent evading police patrols, teams of men are using illegal new methods in the hunt for what remains of Siberia’s lost giants.

Gallery
Facebook news
Shape of things to come

What is Facebook doing to our politics?

Essential reading. This is probably the future of news, for the Right at least: Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine

Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way.

[Facebook’s] algorithms have their pick of text, photos and video produced and posted by established media organizations large and small, local and national, openly partisan or nominally unbiased. But there’s also a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed. These are news sources that essentially do not exist outside of Facebook, and you’ve probably never heard of them. They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands.

Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people.

Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine, by John Herrman, New York Times.

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Indie magazines
Craft and creativity

Making a sustainable independent print magazine

Kai Brach is the publisher, editor and designer of Offscreen Magazine. He has written about the lessons he has learned in a comprehensive Medium post: Indie Magonomics

Kai covers everything from sourcing content (“The hard truth is that most indie publications rely on a lot of favours by a lot of generous people”), to printing (“A lot of indies start with 1000–2000 copies. I started with 3000 for my first issue, but it did take me more than a year to sell them all”), to distribution (“Ask anyone who sells physical products and they will tell you that one of the most biggest challenges is getting the product from A to B. Shipping is hard”), and marketing (“…no matter how boring or old-fashioned it seems, email is still the most powerful marketing tool for most online businesses”), and finally, to making moneyContinue reading

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Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong

TED: Most of us will do anything to avoid being wrong. But what if we’re wrong about that? “Wrongologist” Kathryn Schulz makes a compelling case for not just admitting but embracing our fallibility.


No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong

Jef Rouner: Before you crouch behind your Shield of Opinion you need to ask yourself two questions.

1. Is this actually an opinion?
2. If it is an opinion, how informed is it and why do I hold it?

I’ll help you with the first part. An opinion is a preference for or judgment of something. My favorite color is black. I think mint tastes awful. Doctor Who is the best television show. These are all opinions. They may be unique to me alone or massively shared across the general population but they all have one thing in common; they cannot be verified outside the fact that I believe them.

There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion. The fact that you may still believe that vaccines cause autism does not move your misconception into the realm of valid opinion. Nor does the fact that many other share this opinion give it any more validity.

Houston Press: No, It’s Not Your Opinion. You’re Just Wrong

See also:

Beam me up Scotty
Use your words

Churchillian drift: Great quotations find their way to famous names

Aaron Hutchins, Great quote! But who really said it?: William Shatner’s character in Star Trek never said, “Beam me up, Scotty.” The closest he came was: “Beam us up, Mr. Scott.” Quotes often get condensed in people’s memories. “Memory may be a terrible librarian, but it’s a great editor,” writes Ralph Keyes in his book The Quote Verifier.

Great quotations seem to find their way to famous names.
(not) Mark Twain

Nigel Rees, Policing Word Abuse: Long ago, I coined the term “Churchillian Drift” to describe the process whereby the actual originator of a quotation is often elbowed to one side and replaced by someone more famous. So to Churchill or Napoleon would be ascribed what, actually, a lesser-known political figure had said. The process occurs in all fields.

Why are people so culpable when it comes to using quotations? In the run-up to the war in Iraq, Barbra Streisand, the well-known Shakespearean scholar, quoted this and said it came from Julius Caesar: “Beware the leader who bangs the drum for war.” Sheer invention. Why did she do it? Ignorance, laziness or what? It’s impossible to know for sure, but she wanted–as we all do–to use the supposed words of someone better than ourselves to lend weight to her argument.

See also

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WGBH News: For the next 26 days, one letter will leap out on the front page of Fitchburg’s daily newspaper. Today, it’s a minimalist red A that fills the space above the fold like a house. Tomorrow, B could be big or small, legible or hardly so. Only those putting together the Sentinel & Enterprise’s public art project, “The Alphabet,” know, and they’re out to surprise their readers—”make them wonder, what the hell is going on with the paper?” said visual artist Anna Schuleit Haber, who’s steering it all the way to Z.

WGBH News will be updating the article with every new design in the series.

Use your words

Typographic A to Z for Massachusetts’ Sentinel & Enterprise

‘Schuleit Haber, who was born in Germany and who usually works by herself in her New Orleans studio, recruited 26 typographers from around the world and a team of students and volunteers. Then she embedded herself in the Sentinel & Enterprise newsroom to oversee the endeavor, with the blessing of editor Charles St. Amand.’ — WGBH News

Gallery
EightByEight magazine looks at the ‘cheat sheets’ of two sports commentators:
BBC’s Nick Barnes and NBC’s Arlo White.

Barnes creates a detailed two-page spread for each match he commentates for BBC Radio Newcastle. The notes are divided into two color-coded segments: The left-hand page contains background information on Sunderland’s opposition—the club’s starting XI from its last fixture, previous results, and stadium details—while the right-hand side is updated in real time as the action happens.

NBC Sports’s lead football commentator Arlo White devised his system of note-taking from watching other commentators in action. He cites legendary commentator Barry Davies as a personal hero—and his notes, which White was once shown at Wembley Stadium, as an inspiration. “They were beautifully handwritten, detailed and meticulous,” he said.

Miscellany

The art of sports commentary

“Behind every great football match is a great commentator, and in front of every commentator is a set of notes. BBC Radio Newcastle’s Nick Barnes and NBC Sports’ Arlo White have some of the best—and most unique—in the business.” – EightByEight magazine

Gallery
BuzzFeed
Use your words

The BuzzFeed editorial style guide

Editorial style guides fascinate me, and the BuzzFeed style guide makes for an interesting browse. The word list in particular provides a brilliant snapshot of Internet popular culture as it stands in 2015.

Don’t hyphenate blow job, but do hyphenate butt-dial. Uppercase TARDIS but a subreddit is a lowercase place. T. rex, but T. Swift. Make sure to capitalise Apple Store (and most brands) but you can leave the exclamation mark off of Yahoo.

See also: The BuzzFeed Editorial Standards And Ethics Guide

The BuzzFeed style guide word list →

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Bigfoot in Russia?
Use your words

Rumours, misinformation and the debunking problem

Over the last several months, Craig Silverman, author of Poynter’s Regret the Error blog, has been tracking the way rumors and unverified claims spiral through the news. He founded the website Emergent not only to trace the rumors, but to track how the press deals with debunking them. Well, patterns are already emerging…and they will make you sad.

Some notes from an On The Media segment that I found fascinating…

‘Headline-body dissonance’ is when the reporting of the news in the body of an article doesn’t pair up with the headline summary, typically by making a seeming factual statement in the headline and then walking that back in the article using language like ‘allegedly’ and ‘reportedly’.

An ‘innuendo headline’ is one that makes claim or an accusation, but with a question mark on the end of it. Eg: ‘Bigfoot sighted in Russia?’ (See also: Betteridge’s law of headlines: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”)

These innuendo headlines are problematic as first readers have to understand the claim seemingly being made, so they naturally process it as true. Even after reaching the question mark in most cases readers lean towards the headline being true.

For news organisations the simple act of addressing rumours can give them an air of credibility, even when the intention is to correct the record.

“Theres a connection between repetition and belief.”

The very process of debunking a rumour can have the effect of cementing the misinformation in the minds of those that prefer the false narrative.

Silverman: “This is called the ‘backfire effect’. When deeply held views are challenged our instinct is not to say ‘oh, let me understand your point of view on this’ it’s to double down on those beliefs and to reject what’s being told to us, and this is one of the reasons why debunking is so difficult.”

“Another reason is that when you’re the debunker you’re almost like a spoilsport. You’re kind of ruining the joke, especially when it comes to an entertaining story.”

On The Media: Uncorrected Rumors

See also

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This Video Will Make You Angry

CGP Grey on how ideas spread as ‘thought germs’ (memes in the traditional sense) over the internet, how these ideas use our emotions to survive longer and how ‘opposing thought germs’ (divisive ideas) can survive indefinitely.


In a similar vein, here is a near-future startup promo video by Tom Scott:
The Bubble: imagine the web without trolls, or shocks, or spam

What if you could have a perfect filter for the web? Anything you’d regret seeing or reading: it’s gone before you even see it. Welcome to the Bubble.

Life on the Internet

The 4 types of audio that people share online

Viral audio types

Public radio produces a lot of audio — but it doesn’t always get the attention on sharing platforms that it might deserve. Our friends at NPR Digital Services want to fix that, which has led to a series of experiments. Here, NPR’s Eric Athas shares some of what they’ve found.

Nieman lab: From explainers to sounds that make you go “Whoa!”: The 4 types of audio that people share

See also: What can make audio go viral? NPR experiments with building earworms for social media

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Use your words

F*** right off

“Take away the right to say ‘fuck’, and you take away the right to say ‘fuck the government’.”
Lenny Bruce

From a post by David Marsh on The Guardian: The risks of using asterisks in place of swearwords

First, people are being denied a full and accurate report of what the entire [John Terry] case hinged on: the swearing was central, not peripheral. Second, the shocking force of the language used is surely diminished by reducing it to asterisks. Third, readers are being treated as children, unable to cope with the reality – however unpleasant – of what, we now learn, highly paid professional footballers say to each other on the pitch.

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My picks of the best pics of 2014

The Guardian’s features picture editor Sarah Gilbert selects the most compelling images of 2014:

The Atlantic’s 2014: The Year in Photos, part 1, part 2, part 3:

Buzzfeed’s “74 Of The Most Amazing News Photos Of 2014”:

Time’s Top 10 Photos of 2014 and Top 100 Photos of 2014:

Wired’s The Year’s Most Awesome Photos of Space and NASA’s Best Images of Earth From Space in 2014:

For me some of the most iconic (and depressing) images came from the Mike Brown / Police brutality protests in Ferguson. Of those images, one stands out as particularly memorable:

Perhaps the icon of their fledgling movement is a dreadlocked man identified on Twitter only as @eyeFLOODpanties, who was photographed throwing a tear gas canister while wearing an American flag T-shirt and holding a bag of potato chips. The picture, taken last week by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Robert Cohen, has inspired countless T-shirts and posters. “I didn’t realize how big this was!” he tweeted after his identity was revealed and he gained thousands of Twitter followers.
Buzzfeed: Ferguson’s Angry Young Men

But the man with the chips, who was photographed during protests in Ferguson on Wednesday night, wants you to know he wasn’t throwing it at police. He was throwing it away.

“I don’t think ‘da man wit the chips’ was throwing it back at police. I think he was throwing it away from him and kids he was standing near,” said the man, who goes by the Twitter name @eyeFLOODpanties.
Mashable: ‘Da Man Wit the Chips’ in Iconic Ferguson Photo Identified

(PS: Check out the other posts on this blog tagged ‘photography’)

Light-based media

The best photos of 2014

My picks of the best pics of 2014

Gallery

Crowd control infographic

Check out the graph along the bottom showing the number of significant protests worldwide over time. I’d like to investigate that a bit more, the only source they provide for this whole infographic is ‘SCMP research’.

This is interesting too:

Cause or effect?

Are the police only arresting, pepper spraying and teargassing protestors when violence erupts, or is it possible that these actions are triggering violence? A bit of both perhaps.

Shape of things to come

Crowd control inforgaphic

“From time to time, governments across the world need to control crowds, demonstrations and riots. Here we take a close look at the means available for law enforcement and the lates developments of the protests in Hong Kong.”

Gallery

TIME assigned conflict photographer Ashley Gilbertson to document the zombie apocalypse, as seen in The Last of Us on the PlayStation 4.

The Last of Us

My approach was to enter each situation, or level, and work the scene until I was confident I’d gotten the best photograph I could before moving on. It’s the same way I work in real life. Yet, I found it was more difficult to do in a virtual reality because I was expected to fight my way through these levels to get to the next situations.

I initially played the game at home. But after a short time playing it, I noticed I was having very strong reactions in regards to my role as the protagonist: I hated it. When I covered real war, I did so with a camera, not a gun. At home, I’d play for 30 minutes before noticing I had knots in my stomach, that my vision blurred, and then eventually, that I had simply crashed out. I felt like this could well be my last assignment for TIME.

None of the game’s characters show distress, and that to me was bizarre.

Occasionally the characters show anger, though generally they’re nonchalant about the situation they’ve found themselves in.

By the time I finished this assignment, watching the carnage had became easier.

TIME: A War Photographer Embeds Himself Inside a Video Game

Update: A harsh, but I think fair perspective from The Verge: An award-winning war photographer futilely attempts video game photojournalism

The photos, even at their most dramatic and well-shot, are bland.

Continue reading

Light-based media

TIME embeds a war photographer in a zombie apocalypse (on the PS4)

“I left the experience with a sense that by familiarizing and desensitizing ourselves to violence like this can turn us into zombies. Our lack of empathy and unwillingness to engage with those involved in tragedy stems from our comfort with the trauma those people are experiencing.” — Ashley Gilbertson

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John McIntrye by David Hobby
Use your words

Everyone their own editor

John E. McIntyre writing for The Baltimore Sun about staff cuts to his organisation:

One goal appears to be the elimination of Gannett’s remaining copy editors, in the interest of more immediacy between writer and reader, with fewer “layers” or “tiers,” or “silos,” or whatever the current corporate speak is for settling for quick, cheap, sloppy work because readers are assumed to be ignorant or indifferent.

He leaves reporters with the following advice, which I wanted to copy here in full for future reference:

Item: You are your own fact-checker. It’s up to you to get the names and dates right.

Item: Get a grip on grammar. Mignon Fogarty has assembled the excellent “Grammar Girl’s Editing Checklist.” I suggest that you give it a place on your desk or desktop and consult it until you have internalized its categories.

(The one advantage you have in working without a copy editor is that your prose will not be distorted by some mossback Associated Press Stylebook literalist, such as objecting to the singular they in the headline for this post.)

Item: Pay attention to structure and organization. Get to the point fast, without throat-clearing. Make sure that your article is clearly about one main thing, with associated subtopics linked by transitions. I’ve published my own macro-editing checklist, if you want to have a look.

Item: Try to sound like a human being. Don’t mimic your sources. Shun copspeak, educationese, and bureaucratic jargon. Your writing should sound as if you are speaking directly to the reader across your desk. Try reading your stuff aloud; if it doesn’t sound right in your ears, it probably should be rewritten.

Item: Using the spell-check function is not beneath you. It should be the last thing you do before hitting “publish.” It won’t protect you from homonyms, but it will identify your typos and flag inconsistent spellings of proper names.

Item: Be prepared to write corrections. We are all mortal and prone to error. You cannot escape it, so fess up promptly, thoroughly, and clearly.

Item: Good luck. It is still possible to do good, responsible journalism. It’s just that the obstacles before you have gotten bigger.

Also for later reference, I wanted to note down… The Old Editor’s macro-editing checklist →

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This is Phil Fish, a case study in internet celebrity by Innuendo Studios:

I’m not entirely sure what to expect from having this online. I suspect it’s either going to be really contentious, or go largely unnoticed. Unnoticed, because, hey, it’s YouTube. Contentious because I don’t come down on the side of “Phil is an asshole,” largely because whether or not Phil is an asshole is irrelevant to the point I’m making (and similarly irrelevant to my life), but talking about Phil and saying anything other than “Phil is an asshole” tends to make you a lot of enemies. Sorta like how not blowing smoke up the PS4’s ass proves that you’re a Microsoft stooge.

Whatever. Enjoy!

(via @viticci)

Use your words

Interestingness vs. truth

Oliver Burkeman on maverick sociologist Murray S. Davis’ 1971 paper That’s Interesting! [PDF].

We live in the Era of Interestingness: attention is money, and purveyors of the interesting can make millions from Twitter feeds of amazing facts – even if they’re not always true facts – or from books or blogs offering intriguingly counterintuitive perspectives.

There are only a handful of main ways for an idea to be interesting. To grab people’s attention, you should argue that something we think of as bad is good, or vice versa; that some apparently individual phenomenon is really collective; that several seemingly disparate things are actually part of the same thing; and a few others.
This column will change your life

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Nigel Warburton
Use your words

Nigel Warburton: Five key tips for thinking and writing clearly

Nigel Warburton interviewed by Stephen Law for the Cambridge Journals Blog on the importance of clarity in philosophy:

What would be your five key tips for thinking and writing clearly?

  1. Care about being understood.
  2. Read George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946). It has excellent practical advice about writing to be understood.
  3. Use examples. These can be highly imaginative and creative. This will force you to think through what you mean by generalisations and will also help your readers to understand what you mean. If you want your writing to be impressively obscure, don’t descend from abstraction and use as much jargon as you can.
  4. Know what your conclusion is, how your reasons and examples support it and your response to obvious counterarguments and counterexamples. If you don’t know that, how can you expect your readers to work out what you are saying?
  5. Don’t bullshit. Most people know when they are doing it. If you don’t, you are probably in the wrong subject.

Nigel Warburton and David Edmonds host one of my favourite podcasts, Philosophy Bites, which I love precisely because they expertly bring great clarity to whichever topic happens to be under discussion.

Links →

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Michael Crichton
Use your words

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

In his 2002 speech titled ‘Why Speculate?’, Michael Crichton describes the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect: “I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.”

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.
Michael Crichton

(via)

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Shape of things to come

Speed-reading like Neo

How To Read A 223-Page Novel In Just 77 Minutes:

Spritz makes a speed-reading technology which allows you to get through a mass of text, reading every word, in a fraction of the time it would take if you were turning the pages of a book or swiping through a Kindle. A college-level reader tends to read at between 200 and 400 a minute. Using Spritz, if you can handle 1,000 words per minute, you’d only need 77 minutes to complete the first Harry Potter book.

The placement of the word is key. Each word isn’t simply centered in the Spritz box. Rather, it’s placed optimally so that as little eye-movement is needed as possible. The only thing that limits comprehension at that point if your personal cognitive ability to recognize words and process their meaning.

This animated GIF example shows 500 words per minute.

Spritz at 500wpm

I’m surprised how easy it is to read. I’ve been aware of various speed reading apps before but never really considered trying them. That GIF above has pretty much convinced me that I should, at least for reading articles online.

Fiction feels like a very different beast to me. I know for starters that I tend to speed up when the story gets exciting and sometimes I like to linger and appreciate a paragraph or line of dialogue and consider it for a bit.

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Edward Snowden
Shape of things to come

Edward Snowden on freedom

Today, an ordinary person can’t pick up the phone, email a friend or order a book without comprehensive records of their activities being created, archived, and analysed by people with the authority to put you in jail or worse. I know: I sat at that desk. I typed in the names.

When we know we’re being watched, we impose restraints on our behaviour – even clearly innocent activities – just as surely as if we were ordered to do so. The mass surveillance systems of today, systems that pre-emptively automate the indiscriminate seizure of private records, constitute a sort of surveillance time-machine – a machine that simply cannot operate without violating our liberty on the broadest scale. And it permits governments to go back and scrutinise every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever spoken to, and derive suspicion from an innocent life. Even a well-intentioned mistake can turn a life upside down.

To preserve our free societies, we have to defend not just against distant enemies, but against dangerous policies at home. If we allow scarce resources to be squandered on surveillance programmes that violate the very rights they purport to defend, we haven’t protected our liberty at all: we have paid to lose it.
Edward Snowden

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New York Daily News
Humans and other animals

The myth of the War of the Worlds panic

According to Slate almost nobody was fooled by Orson Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds broadcast. It did not trigger a nationwide hysteria. Few Americans listened. Even fewer panicked.

Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” remains far more significant in the history of broadcast regulation than Orson Welles’ trickery.
The myth of the War of the Worlds panic

This story makes a lot more sense to me now.

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New York Times Retro Report: Not Just a Hot Cup Anymore

In 1992, Stella Liebeck spilled scalding McDonald’s coffee in her lap and later sued the company, attracting a flood of negative attention. It turns out there was more to the story.

Every news outlet should dedicate a regular slot or column to looking back at old news and how it was reported.

Obama
Humans and other animals

If we wrote about the US with the language journalists use to cover foreign countries

GlobalPost goes inside the United States to uncover the regime’s dramatic descent into authoritarian rule and how the opposition plans to fight back.

BOSTON, Mass. — Human rights activists say revelations that the US regime has expanded its domestic surveillance program to private phone carriers is more evidence of the North American country’s pivot toward authoritarianism.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported this week that a wing of the country’s feared intelligence and security apparatus ordered major telecommunications companies to hand over data on phone calls made by private citizens.

Over the last decade, the United States has passed a series of emergency laws that give security forces sweeping powers to combat “terrorism.” But foreign observers say the authorities abuse those laws, using them instead to monitor ordinary Americans.

On a recent visit to the United States by GlobalPost, signs of the increased security apparatus could be found everywhere.

At all national airports, passengers are now forced to undergo full-body scans before boarding any flights. Small cameras are perched on many street corners, recording the movements and actions of the public. And incessant warnings on public transportation systems encourage citizens to report any “suspicious activity” to authorities.

“What exactly is terrorism? The term is used so loosely these days it could include just about anyone,” said one anti-government protester, who was tear-gassed and then arrested in 2011 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in New York, America’s largest city and its economic capital.
Peter Gelling, Inside the United States

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For 365 days, Paul Miller disconnected from the internet. We’d like to tell you it was an idyllic journey of self-discovery, but that isn’t quite the truth.

I didn’t have any interest in following Paul Miller’s story of life without the internet. It struck me as an intellectually weak exercise probably done more for publicity than anything else. I don’t know how true that is, but it seems that all Paul really learned was that the internet has a lot of crap and a lot of value and that he’s just a regular dude either way. Duh.

I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet – theverge.com

Use your words

News is bad for you

Rolf Dobelli on how news misleads, is irrelevant, has no explanatory power, is actually toxic to your body, increases cognitive errors, inhibits thinking, is addictive like a drug, wastes your time, keeps us passive and kills our creativity.

Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.

Society needs journalism – but in a different way. Investigative journalism is always relevant. We need reporting that polices our institutions and uncovers truth. But important findings don’t have to arrive in the form of news. Long journal articles and in-depth books are good, too.

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The "take out data points" trick
Use your words

Separating science from hype

From the Rockerfeller University, a simple guide to separating science from hype, no PhD required:

  1. Separate the sales pitch from the science“In short, read articles carefully and figure out if the claims they make are based on the facts they present.”
  2. Find the data“use Google Scholar to look for the original source. Search with whatever information you have: the names of the scientists, their institution, or the main topic.”
  3. Evaluate the data“Think about it this way: if you were in charge of figuring out the height of the average American male, you would need to measure a bunch of people to get it right. If you only measured a few people, and they happened to be basketball players, you’d be way off.”
    The section on misleading graphs here is brilliant.
  4. Put the story into context“If you’re having trouble finding alternative perspectives, the Wikipedia page for the topic can be a good place to start, especially if it contains a “controversy” or “criticism” section.”
  5. Ask an expert“Is there a science blogger you like? Tweet at them. […] Nothing beats a real discussion (even over Twitter or email!), but you can also check out neutral, non-biased sites like Mayo Clinic.”

(via Boing Boing)

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Topless Jihad

A man kicks a topless Femen activist, as she raises her fist to protest against Islamists in front of the Great Mosque of Paris, on April 3, 2013.

Amazing photographs on The Atlantic of yesterday’s “topless jihad” protests.

The demonstrations were in support of a young Tunisian activist named Amina Tyler. Last month, Tyler posted naked images of herself online, with the words “I own my body; it’s not the source of anyone’s honor” written on her bare chest. The head of Tunisia’s “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” reportedly called for Tyler to be stoned to death for her putatively obscene actions, lest they lead to an epidemic.

Humans and other animals

Femen stages a ‘Topless Jihad’

Amazing photograph from The Atlantic from the “topless jihad” protests of April 2013.

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Life on the Internet

Jay Rosen’s social media tips

‘Social media wiz shares wizdom’ by Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at NYU.

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