Larry Magid: Google Glass: I Have Better Things To Do With $1,500 2014-04-17
I didn't apply to be one of the early "explorers" when Google first made its "Glass" wearable computing device available last year, and I didn't opt-in when they sold them online to anyone willing to pay $1,500.
Although I don't own Google Glass, I have tried it.
Part of the reason, of course, is the price. I have better things to do with $1,500 and, besides, if I wait a while, the price is sure to come down. If Google is serious about providing wearable access to the Internet and to its mapping service, to the general public, it will have to find a way to price them for $600 or less.
But price isn't the only reason. For one thing, they are not yet ready for prime-time, and I'm not sure they ever will be. I'm not against wearable technology. I just want the technology to solve a real problem or enhance my life in a meaningful way. That's why I'm not excited about most current smartwatches, though I do wear a Lifetrak exercise watch because it's affordable ($50), it doesn't require being recharged (has a one-year coin battery) and it does solve a real problem -- incentivizing me to walk more.
One issue with Glass is the user interface. There is a touch-pad that lets you use hand-gestures to activate Glass or navigate to a different web page, and you can use head movements, but the main interface is voice, which is great when it works, but still not 100 percent reliable.
Some are waiting till Glass gets more stylish. The fact that they're quite geeky looking wouldn't stop me, but I can see how many would prefer more fashionable eyewear. Google has signed a deal with an eyeglass company, so we can expect better-looking versions, including some with prescription lenses.
There are some who worry about distracted driving and walking. Indeed, having a computer monitor just above your eye could be distracting, but it doesn't have to be. If you look straight ahead, you see what's in front of you, not what's on the tiny monitor. Still, there is the temptation to look at the screen at inappropriate times, just as some are tempted to look at or touch their phones when they shouldn't.
My biggest concern about Glass is that I'm not convinced it's the best form of wearable technology. I like the idea of having the Internet accessible all the time, but I'm not so sure I want to be wearing a monitor on my forehead.
Another issue is lack of social acceptance. There has been quite a backlash against Google Glass. Some is probably unfair, but there are those who worry that they can be used to surreptitiously take pictures or video. But to be fair, there are plenty of other ways to do that with digital cameras and smartphones, including plenty of wearable cameras. For some, Google Glass is simply symbolic of the growing number of well-heeled techies who are flaunting expensive technology that many can't afford. There is even a pejorative term that starts with "glass" and ends with "hole." The word in the middle is a synonym for donkey.
Carol Pierson Holding: Fighting Fracking: Where Moral Outrage Fails, Earthquakes Prevail 2014-04-17
In response to pressure from students, faculty -- and apparently alumni -- who oppose Harvard Endowment's refusal to divest its fossil fuel stocks, Harvard University's President Drew Faust's office issued her second statement on climate change and sent a an email link to Harvard alumni. (N.B.: I am one). Instead of divesting, Harvard will become a signatory to the UN Principles of Responsible Investing and the Carbon Disclosure Project. Alumni are also asked to contribute to a $20 million Climate Change Solutions Fund. Harvard is chipping in $1 million. Meh... I was not alone in my reaction. My email was buzzing with disappointed environmentalists and sustainability investment managers. 100 Harvard faculty members posted a letter objecting to Harvard's failure to divest. Students who worked so hard for divestment must be crushed. But really, even Harvard's full commitment to fossil fuel divestment would be symbolic. Only $33.6 million of the fund's $33 billion is invested in fossil fuels. And even Harvard's entire endowment pales in comparison to the reserves the fossil fuel industry holds, valued at $27 trillion. Or the $100 million a day Exxon alone spends in exploration. My own stance against Harvard's failure to divest hasn't changed. My argument is both moral and economic. Investment research professionals including Asperio Group have proved that fossil fuels aren't a good investment over time. But even economic arguments don't get you far in the face of $27 trillion. If not moral outrage or economics, what can we use to fight fossil fuel companies? Unfortunately, health risks aren't enough to spur regulators to act. One example: the harm from fracking is widespread and well known. Even oil and gas company executives know that fracking is unhealthy. Exxon's CEO Rex Tillerson joined a lawsuit to stop fracking in his wealthy Bartonville, TX neighborhood. For too many of the rest of us, water degradation from fossil fuel drilling and transport has become a fact of life. We get almost daily reports of leaking or exploding pipes and drilling platforms. Just this past Friday, an shale gas pipeline leaked into the water plant for Lanzhou, China, contaminating water for its 2.4 million residents and sending a fireball across the landscape. If even water desecration isn't enough to rally regulators, what is? I'm betting on earthquakes. When a big one hits, as happened as a result of fracking in Christchurch, New Zealand, the results are so grim and last so long as to force action. Josephine Ensign, a professor at University of Washington who also teaches Community and Environmental Health in New Zealand, visited Christchurch in February. She describes the earthquake's after effects in her blog Medical Margins: I knew we would likely encounter some signs of the destructive earthquakes that hit Christchurch and surrounding areas in September 2010 and again in February 2011 (killing 185 people, including many international students.) But I wasn't prepared for the magnitude of the still-raw destruction in the downtown core. It's been almost three years and entire blocks of quaked-out buildings are propped up with shipping containers or just left in charred ruins. Just a year after the second earthquake, Christchurch's city council banned fracking entirely. In the U.S., fracking has so far caused only tremors. Nonetheless, they are terrifying. As happened in Christchurch, cities are the first entities to ban the practice. Given the frequency of earthquakes in California, it's no wonder Los Angeles was the largest city in the U.S. to call a moratorium. Other smaller municipalities in California have done the same, joining cities in Texas -- including Dallas! -- New York, Vermont and Colorado in either outright moratoriums or limitations so severe the end result is the same. The state of California is now considering a state-wide ban. Mass media is a great help to the anti-fracking movement. For example, last Friday night, Brian Williams announced on the NBC Nightly News that state scientists in Ohio linked fracking to recent seismic activity. Associated Press called it "The Big Story." Unlike protests or even poisoned water and soil, earthquakes are shutting down fracking drills all over the world. And that's more "earth-shattering" than anything Harvard divestment or economic arguments can do. Image courtesy of Alistair Paterson via Flickr CC.
Ravi Parikh: How To Lie With Data Visualization 2014-04-17
Data visualization is one of the most important tools we have to analyze data. But it's just as easy to mislead as it is to educate using charts and graphs. In this article we'll take a look at 3 of the most common ways in which visualizations can be misleading.
One of the easiest ways to misrepresent your data is by messing with the y-axis of a bar graph, line graph, or scatter plot. In most cases, the y-axis ranges from 0 to a maximum value that encompasses the range of the data. However, sometimes we change the range to better highlight the differences. Taken to an extreme, this technique can make differences in data seem much larger than they are.
Let's see how this works in practice. The two graphs below show the exact same data, but use different scales for the y-axis:
On the left, we've constrained the y-axis to range from 3.140 percent to 3.154 percent. Doing so makes it look like interest rates are skyrocketing! At a glance, the bar sizes imply that rates in 2012 are several times higher than those in 2008. But displaying the data with a zero-baseline y-axis tells a more accurate picture, where interest rates are staying static.
If this example seems exaggerated, here are some real-world examples of truncated y-axes:
Many people opt to create cumulative graphs of things like number of users, revenue, downloads, or other important metrics. For example, instead of showing a graph of our quarterly revenue, we might choose to display a running total of revenue earned to date. Let's see how this might look:
We can't tell much from this graph. It's moving up and to the right, so things must be going well! But the non-cumulative graph paints a different picture:
Now things are a lot clearer. Revenues have been declining for the past ten years! If we scrutinize the cumulative graph, it's possible to tell that the slope is decreasing as time goes on, indicating shrinking revenue. However, it's not immediately obvious, and the graph is incredibly misleading.
There are lots of real-world cases of cumulative graphs that make things seem a lot more positive than they are. A prominent example is Apple's usage of a cumulative graph to show iPhone sales.
One of the most insidious tactics people use in constructing misleading data visualizations is to violate standard practices. We're used to the fact that pie charts represent parts of a whole or that timelines progress from left to right. So when those rules get violated, we have a difficult time seeing what's actually going on. We're wired to misinterpret the data, due to our reliance on these conventions.
Here's an example of a pie chart that Fox Chicago aired during the 2012 primaries:
The three slices of the pie don't add up to 100 percent. The survey presumably allowed for multiple responses, in which case a bar chart would be more appropriate. Instead, we get the impression that each of the three candidates have about a third of the support, which isn't the case.
Another example is this visualization published by Business Insider, which seems to show the opposite of what's really going on:
At first glance, it looks like gun deaths are on the decline in Florida. But a closer look shows that the y-axis is upside-down, with zero at the top and the maximum value at the bottom. As gun deaths increase, the line slopes downward, violating a well established convention that y-values increase as we move up the page.
There's a simple takeaway from all this: be careful when designing visualizations, and be extra careful when interpreting graphs created by others. We've covered three common techniques, but it's just the surface of how people use data visualization to mislead.
Ravi is co-founder of Heap, a data analytics company.
Do you have an example of a particularly poorly built visualization? Let us know on Twitter.
Arun Gupta: Bitcoin Activism: How Michelle Malkin And Suey Park Found Common Cause In Hashtag Movements 2014-04-17
Suey Park is the Bitcoin of activism. Her hashtag movements are a digital phenomenon. Her value is determined by how much others buy into her. The lack of institutional backing allows her to disrupt the status quo. And just like digital currencies, hashtag activism is vulnerable to shadowy intrigues and corrupting influences.
When Park sent out a 115-character tweet at 7:55 p.m. on March 27, "The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals has decided to call for #CancelColbert. Trend it," she ignited a media firestorm. She was playing on a skit by The Colbert Report mocking the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, accusing the faux news show of racism.
The #CancelColbert was all spectacle with colorful characters, outrageous conduct, and lessons in the power and peril of new media. Pundits needed only to generate a new round of controversy to propel the outrage machine, thereby allowing them to ruminate on three of their favorite topics at once: the news, television and Twitter. Park was engulfed by controversy and vitriol, and many people flocked to defend her, supporting her position that the media mocks Asians because they are an easy target and opposing the loathsome death and rape threats aimed at Park.
Park, a 23-year-old "activist and writer," became a Twitter star in December 2013 with #NotYourAsianSidekick, which encouraged Asian-American youth to use social media to tell empowering stories and challenge stifling stereotypes. Park rapidly built a powerful following, but the site also facilitated the aggression against her. The ability to mask oneself on Twitter has spawned a bestiary of trolls, hackers, doppelgangers, bots, pranksters, and real-life sociopaths who punch down outspoken women of color because that's how America works.
The openness of platforms like Bitcoin and Twitter is also their weakness, allowing dark recesses to be carved out for malevolent ends. Digital money entices crooks who pilfer strings of code that comprise the currency as a path to fabulous riches, while social media attracts those looking for a shortcut to power and prestige. It's what led Park into the orbit of Michelle Malkin, the radical right's Asian sidekick.
Hashtag activism is ancient history for the web, but Malkin, a new-media controversialist, has adopted Park's language, tactics, and social media skills, and it appears she is influencing Park to target "liberal racists." Malkin hybridized hashtag activism with reactionary politics by creating #MyRightWingBiracialFamily in January 2014. Accusing MSNBC of racism, her campaign swiftly went viral and elicited an apology from the news network. Evidence shows Malkin came into contact with Park at this point. So when Park started #CancelColbert, Malkin charged in with her huge network and ample resources primed to skewer liberal racism.
Park did not respond to requests for an interview, but sources in contact with Park say she opposes Malkin's extremism. Malkin's writings are published on a white supremacist website, and she minimizes torture at Guantanamo, is anti-gay, deals in Orientalist stereotypes of Muslims, and cuts down women based on their appearance. Her book on internment was so flawed the Historians' Committee for Fairness denounced it as "a blatant violation of professional standards of objectivity and fairness."
Less than two hours after Park initiated #CancelColbert, Malkin enthusiastically backed it. Park was immediately bombarded with tweets warning of the dangers of allying with Malkin, but she said very little despite Malkin writing an Islamophobic defense of Park that used #CancelColbert to argue liberals were the real racists, not conservatives. Park has also been silent about the fact Malkin wrote a book justifying the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, called Asian campaign donors to Hillary Clinton "limited-English-proficient and smellier than stinky tofu," and once dismissed campaigns against anti-Asian racism as "self-pitying and grievance-mongering."
Park has become a sensation with just 23,000 Twitter followers, a scattering compared with Malkin's 693,000 fans. What sets Park apart is her savvy use of Twitter, flowing from her metaphysical vision that "Digital lives will shape history." Park and her followers float in digital ether where avatars, buzzwords and representations are terra firma. It's similar to Bitcoin enthusiasts who proselytize that monetary algorithms, online wallets and virtual keys will reshape the global economy, but fall prey to classic con-man scams. It's a shame because Park is right that liberal racism is real. Democrats are as complicit as the right in locking up brown people at home and blowing up brown people abroad. But when a young anti-racist activist who writes about "imperial timelines," anti-capitalism and decolonization finds herself in cahoots with an extremist like Malkin, it reveals Twitter is more useful for political manipulation than collective revolution.
The #NotYourAsianSidekick landed Park on The Guardian's list of "Top 30 young people in digital media." One detail left out of the story is that the movement was shepherded collectively by Park and by co-creator and feminist Juliet Shen, facilitators for specific topics, and organizations like 18 Million Rising. In January, Park took sole credit in a bit of humblebragging, writing, "The viral success of #NotYourAsianSidekick after I first tweeted the tag on December 15, 2013, wasn't about me, but all of us." By February, Shen and 18 Million Rising had fallen out with Park. Park's next triumph came on Jan. 14 when she scorched the CBS sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother," accusing it of yellowface in an episode satirizing Kung Fu movies. Tweeting "My race is not a costume,"with the hashtag #HowIMetYourRacism, Park elicited an apology from the show's co-creator after the controversy was covered by CNN, Time magazine, and Cosmopolitan. It seems Malkin was watching. Sounding like an activist immersed in cultural theory, Malkin tweeted on Jan. 20, "Great thing about Twitter is that it allows those excluded from official MSM narratives to break down the barriers." Then, on Jan. 29, Malkin came into her own as a hashtag activist. MSNBC tweaked the right by tweeting, "Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family. http://on.msnbc.com/1dPgQEU."
A first responder in fabricating outrage, Malkin linked the Cheerios tweet to an incident a month earlier when an MSNBC panel belittled Mitt Romney's extended family, which includes an adopted black grandchild. Then Malkin tweeted, "Hey @msnbc jerks: This is #MyRightwingBiracialFamily. We love #cheerios. Enough with your race card crap==> pic.twitter.com/DZikmrD0PK." The crowds went wild, retweeting the hashtag and accompanying photo of Malkin's two biracial children more than 500 times. Two minutes later Malkin exhorted her followers to make it a movement, tweeting "Counter the Left's evil narrative. Use social media to expose & crush it. Flood @msnbc w/YOUR pics ==> #MyRightWingBiracialFamily." As more than 100 photos of right-wing biracial families poured in, Malkin gushed, "Gorgeous!", "BEAUTIFUL!", "LOVE!!!" She played empowerment coach and bare-knuckled brawler, tweeting, "'Rightwing' families responded to @msnbc w/love, pride & joy. This, ultimately, is how we will end poisonous, libelous race-card smears." Her fans played victims of a bigoted liberal media and basked in the Instagram glow of diversity, family and tolerance.
Twitchy, a Twitter aggregation and curation website founded by Malkin in March 2012 (and sold to a Christian media company last December), churned out posts to keep the outrage fresh. The next day, Jan. 30, Twitchy crowed, "Michelle Malkin leads crushing social media win against MSNBC smear," after the news network apologized and reportedly fired the tweeter responsible. What's this have to do with Suey Park? Well, on Jan. 30, Park weighed in on a Twitter discussion that included Malkin. After Park derided another woman as "hysterical," "unreasonable," and "immature," she declared Malkin was "reasonable."
Why would Park call Malkin reasonable given her noxious politics?
Perhaps Park was enthused by Malkin's victorious hashtag campaign that mimicked her own, celebrating diversity against racist media depictions. Given the fact they were familiar with each other, it's distinctly possible they were talking in the internet's dark alleys, and Malkin was trying to convince Park they had the same enemy. Park's fixation on the digital world over the material may have led her to conclude that Twitter Malkin was reasonable.
On March 17, Park published a hashtag manifesto with her frequent collaborator, Eunsong Kim, a PhD candidate in literature. The two imagine Twitter as the new vanguard party uniting revolutionaries. Twitter is subversive, a tool to "defy the limitations of time and space," a means to build intentional communities, and "part of a collective struggle ... to end capitalism and abandon the replication of oppressive exclusionary tactics within ethnic confines." This reveals a disconnect with reality. That the revolution is riding in on a $25 billion company gentrifying a patch of earth called the Bay Area and displacing people of color in the process goes unmentioned in the manifesto. If you can think Twitter is making a revolution possible, then you can believe Malkin is on your side.
A few days later, on Feb. 2, Park smacked "Saturday Night Live" with charges of yellowface. Her complaints were retweeted only by a few dozen people, but Jeff Yang, whom one source said was a mentor of Park, criticized SNL as well in his Wall Street Journal column and linked it to the "How I Met Your Mother" episode.
In neither episode did Park raise the issue of liberal racism. Certainly Colbert, with his bloviating right-wing alter ego, delights liberals and displeases conservatives. But one can easily make the argument that Park's initial campaigns exposed the racism of liberal Hollywood as well. It was with #CancelColbert that liberal racism suddenly became Park's target.
The supercells of Park and Malkin collided the night of Thursday, March 27, 2014, generating a perfect media storm. Park fired off at least three tweets in four minutes. The first was a "Fuck you" Colbert. The second was the infamous "The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation," which was retweeted a respectable 144 times, a mild breeze compared to a Twittersphere hurricane like Justin Bieber, whose feckless grunts are retweeted 100,000 times or more. In the third tweet, Park accused white liberals of being "just as complicit in making Asian Americans into punchlines." Presumably she meant as complicit as conservatives. In the next two hours, Park rained directives, exhortations, jargon, and rebukes on her followers while skirmishing with others on the side. Park was Asian-America: "there are 19 million of us," "We are waiting for an apology and explanation," and "we aren't amused." Park commanded, "White people--please keep #CancelColbert trending until there's an apology. This is NOT the burden of people of color. Fix it. Do something," ordered those who aren't "structurally subordinated [to] please shut up and help #CancelColbert," and sneered, "Still waiting for white allies to make themselves useful, but they probably enjoy the show too much." (She changed her opinion about the utility of white people the following week, telling Salon, "I don't want them on our side.") Park later claimed #CancelColbert was a provocative way to expose liberal racism, but that night she chided, "White people ... I know y'all are used to having structural power, but losing one show isn't oppression #CancelColbert." Additionally, the headline for her and Eunsong Kim's article for Time magazine read, "We Want to #CancelColbert." An hour into the campaign, at 8:52 p.m., Twitchy swung into action. In February, I felt the heat from a Twitchy-led mob, including a thinly veiled death threat, after sarcastically tweeting that Republicans were guilty of economic terrorism by threatening to cut aid to a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee if workers there unionized. But for #CancelColbert, Twitchy became as earnest as an Occupy Wall Street general assembly, curating Tweets about racist "othering," transphobia, fat shaming, cis privilege, bullying, and triggering. Garnering more than 1,200 mentions on Facebook and Twitter, the Twitchy post praised Park's persistence, framed the issue as one of liberal racism, and noted the campaign was going viral fast.
MALKIN IT FOR ALL IT'S WORTH
At 9:34 p.m. Park announced the first victory. The Colbert Report deleted the original offending tweet that had gone out at 6:02 p.m.: "I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever." Malkin piled on seven minutes later by tweeting, "Coward just deleted the tweet!" She also referred to the tweet from Twitchy the previous hour. Warming up, Malkin tweeted at 9:44 p.m., "Co-sign! RT @suey_park I'm sick of liberals hiding behind assumed 'progressiveness' #CancelColbert." Malkin was retweeted 152 times, nosing past the first Cancel Colbert tweet. Park retweeted or favorited both missives. That minute Malkin tweeted at Park, "@suey_park I know we don't agree on much, but you are TENACIOUS & I respect that greatly. Hats off to you. #cancelcolbert." Also at 9:44 p.m. Park tweeted, sounding like Malkin, "I'm sick of liberals hiding behind assumed 'progressiveness' #CancelColbert." Given their contact in January, the tweets suggest the two had been in communication. At minimum the two were now joined in battle against the specter of liberal racism. Park did not comment on Malkin, but she retweeted her yet again.
Others alerted Park she was making common cause with someone who commits every political sin Park preaches against. At 9:48 p.m. on March 27, only four minutes after Malkin backed Park, noted anti-racist and feminist blogger Mia McKenzie, aka Black Girl Dangerous, expressed her displeasure, tweeting "@suey_park ew michelle malkin, though? ew." Park didn't respond, but she favorited this tweet soon after. At 9:54 p.m., two hours after #CancelColbert was born, Malkin explained the goal was not to cancel Colbert, it was to "#ExposeColbert & it's working very effectively. Luv the smell of hypocrisy toast." Park favorited the tweet. Cancel Colbert rapidly went stratospheric. At 10:33 p.m. Park tweeted, "Fun! We are the #1 trending hashtag in the US right now ... Keep it up! Park's mood understandably soured a few hours later as Twitter interactions hit 200 per minute, many of them oozing racist and sexist vitriol, including rape and death threats. The next morning Twitchy published another post defending Park that made it seem as if she and Malkin were united on the issue. At no point did Park publicly distance herself from Malkin, reject her politics, or at least express concern that Malkin's vicious real-world racism might harm the campaign to address racism in the fictional world. Park's only comment the night of March 27 to Malkin was to declare, "I'm Christian, too," at 8:56 p.m. While Malkin and Twitchy supported Park, Park concluded that Colbert fans were behind the torrent of abuse directed at her. Park tweeted that night to Colbert's personal account, "Dear @StephenAtHome--your years of satire have failed when your fans send rape/death threats to an asian woman for critiquing your work." From the Twitter feeds of abusers calling her "chink" and "rice nigger," nearly all look to be right-wing trolls.
By March 28, #CancelColbert burned through the media. Park's article in Time indicated that Cancel Colbert was the goal. But in an interview with The New Yorker the same day, Park sounded like Malkin, saying she didn't really want to cancel Colbert, despite the hashtag. Park said of Colbert's sketch, "That sort of racial humor just makes people who hide under the title of progressivism more comfortable." Malkin completed the Freaky Friday switch, sounding like Park when she tweeted that afternoon, "For all you CLWM's [clueless white males] lecturing brown & yellow women about how we don't get the 'satire' ..."
Park obviously is not responsible for Malkin trying to co-opt her message. But given the number of times she retweets or favorites Malkin, and acknowledges criticism but is silent about it, this suggests she is keeping quiet about Malkin's politics so as to benefit from her support.
Three anti-racist feminists who have been in touch with Park say "she might be in over her head" in tangoing with Malkin. Juliet Shen, who calls Park a "former friend," says she was "shocked" to see Malkin and Park "were talking to each other, and in a way supporting each other." Another source says Malkin "doesn't support Park, she is just eager to use her to slam liberals."
Shen thinks Malkin is using Park to "change people's opinions about her, and in that way help loop Asian-Americans into right-wing politics." She suggests both Park and Malkin may be "using each other for an opportunity to get more visibility in communities neither of them had a lot of presence in."
Shen says, "It is confusing to see why Park wouldn't denounce Malkin of all people," especially when Park is quick to fling around insults such as "anti-blackness, racism, sexism, homophobia [against]other organizers in the Asian-American community." She says Park might be afraid "if she did publicly criticize Malkin, she has this huge following that could easily turn on Suey."
One source who asked Park about Malkin's support for Cancel Colbert claimed Park expressed her distaste for Malkin but then did not respond when asked if she would repudiate Malkin publicly.
Park's first comment about Malkin came on March 30. The previous day Jeff Yang slammed #CancelColbert and the limits of Twitter as a social justice tool in the Wall Street Journal. Park broke with Yang that evening, calling him "a gaslighting self-promoting patriarch." Shen wrote in a blog post that it's common practice among Park's followers to accuse others of gaslighting, that is, trying to deliberately twist someone's memory. At 3:42 a.m. Park tweeted at Yang, "@michellemalkin has been a better friend than you." On April 1, Malkin threw down in support of Park, making no bones of her intention to use Park to sanitize right-wing racism. "Question: Who are the most prominent, public purveyors of Asian stereotypes and ethnic language-mocking in America? "The right answer is liberal Hollywood and Democrats. "The wrong and slanderous answer is conservatives..." After denigrating Colbert as an "illegal alien amnesty lobbyist," Malkin applauded Park for leading a group of "diehard liberals" to "tenaciously" question Colbert and his defenders as "race-baiting liberals who hid behind their self-professed progressivism." Malkin also took the opportunity to bash Muslims and defend her internment book. Finally on April 1 Park offered some ambiguous criticism, tweeting, "Michelle Malkin cosigning my work means my message sucks, but white supremacists threatening rape cosigning Angry Asian Man means...what?" DIGITAL DESTRUCTION
Just as Park has shied away from criticizing a demagogue who boosted her, Park's defenders have ignored how she and her supporters engage in abusive behavior, outrageous claims, and odious alliances. This is not equivalent to the threats of violence directed at Park, who has shown real courage to face down internet predators.
But Park and her followers use the digital medium as a cudgel to silence opposition and to erase histories, which serves to promote her brand. Park says the revolution involves building bridges "across difference in our Twitter neighborhoods" to understand "how slavery, genocide, and orientalism are the three pillars of white supremacy." Twitter's 140-character limit, however, also selects for cliques that build gated ideologies out of code words. The medium is hostile to analyzing the quality of an idea, the logic of an argument, or the nuance of history. If you are an ally, your social genotype takes precedence as long as you can correctly assemble the jargon: decolonial, intersectional, queer, anti-racist, imperial timelines, trans, white supremacy, heteropatriarchical. If you are a critic, which is a polite term for enemy, then your phenotype is all that matters. Thus, if you are an Asian-American man Park disagrees with, that's because "Asian men [throw] women of color under the bus." If you are an Asian woman critic, you sound like "a white feminist." If you are a white feminist, that really means "White (Supremacy) Feminism." And if you are a hetero cis white male, nothing more needs be said. There is no institutional memory on Twitter, just a stream of directives and pronouncements that wash away the past. If Twitter is the revolution, then Park can actually believe "my tweet" of #NotYourAsianSidekick was "the point of origin for Asian American feminism." That's right. Suey Park invented Asian-American feminism. Additionally, Park can simultaneously speak for 19 million Asian Americans, tell them to "decenter" their identity, and berate them for "gaslighting," "sidekicking" whites, and ignoring their internalized racism.
Her enablers include the swarm of leftists on Twitter so intoxicated by identity politic buzzwords they couldn't walk the line between defending someone against vile threats, and challenging the conduct and ideas of Park and her supporters. The media is even more complicit as it made her into a national figure, but is so incurious about Asian-America that Park can act as its voice and the founder of Asian-American feminism without raising an eyebrow.
Then there's the matter of how #CancelColbert "Drowned out the Native Voice," as Indian Country Today Media Network bluntly stated. Native American journalist Jacqueline Keeler criticized Park for shifting discussion away from the Redskins name, and for not promoting hashtags to protest racist sports team names. Keeler claims, "We kept Suey Park in the loop regarding our hashtag #Not4Sale, she was just not moved to act on it." Native activist Jennie Stockle, who works with Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, wrote: "... like a tornado, Suey Park's tweet calling to cancel Colbert Report came through and pushed all of our efforts into a storm shelter." Park admitted the adverse effect of #CancelColbert the next day, "The almighty @andrea366 has reminded me of an important point--can't ignore anti-Native racism--let's address issues simultaneously."
Ironically, Park is right that digital lives do bleed into reality, just as drug traffickers and the IRS alike realize Bitcoin is more than fictitious capital. Park and her allies sparked a national controversy and sent the media all atwitter. They proved a point that Asians are an easy punchline for television comedy, even as their claim Asian-Americans is one monolithic marginalized community is as fictional as the shows they critique.
But in the offline world, says Shen, they've "burned bridges, hurt many people in our community, and by throwing buzzwords around they've diminished real organizing against sexism, racism and other forms of bigotry."
Shen adds Park's appropriation of grand roles and achievements shows a lack of "recognition for those who've done so much before us. ... This is not the origin for Asian-American feminism. This is one blip in the long timeline of fighting for racial, sexual and gender justice."
The only one who gained from the dust-up is Colbert with more attention and a show's worth of material. Park built a national platform out of hashtags, but her standing has likely peaked. After Colbert was tapped for the coveted spot of host on "The Late Show," Park and Kim took to Time magazine once more to vow they're not going to stop "until it ends." It, presumably, is how the "entertainment industry has perfected the development of white, cis, straight, male characters," and marginalized "other voices." It's a worthy goal, but they are trying to empty an ocean with a thimble by using Twitter to change historical consciousness.
Bitcoin paved the way for a slew of digital currencies, and #CancelColbert will inspire others to replicate Park. There will be more hashtag activists inventing history 140 characters at time, erasing allies and achievements, positioning themselves at the head of movements and communities, and influencing national conversations. Lurking in Twitter's shadows will be other opportunists like Malkin ready to divert that energy for twisted ends. But 140-character harangues in the dark won't change anything. Real change happens in the real world.
Paul Brandeis Raushenbush: The Thing I Never Want To Hear Again On Good Friday 2014-04-17
When I was in seminary and doing field education at my first church, I was handed a script for a Good Friday service a few minutes before we were to begin. And it went something like this:
Me: And then the Jews said...
Congregation: Crucify him, Crucify him!
I heard myself say the words and take part in this ritual and it made me physically sick. I couldn't believe that this was the liturgy that this kind, little church had been using for the past decades, maybe longer. But even worse, I found myself participating in it; perpetuating an anti-Jewish theology of deicide that I knew was wrong, but feeling helpless to do anything about it.
I swore that I would never be a part of such a service again. And I wasn't, until I went to a Good Friday service at my progressive church last year that has a penchant for high liturgy and a reputation for superb music. They sang -- in beautiful tones, in a lovely sanctuary -- the same crucifixion narrative told in the Gospel of John that claims that Jesus was crucified by the Jews, and the blame is upon them. To make matters so much worse, the liturgy was followed by a sermon that never mentioned the anti-Judaism in the liturgy, as if it didn't warrant a correction.
And I felt betrayed by my church all over again.
It should not matter that I am from an interfaith family and my closest cousins are Jewish. All Christians should be disgusted by the continued use of this kind of language in our liturgy that blames the Jews for Jesus' horrific death on the cross.
Stating that the Jews killed Jesus is untrue, it has led to violence against Jews over the last two thousand years, and it betrays Jesus himself on the very day when we observe his crucifixion.
I spoke to Professor Mary Boys who teaches at Union Theological Seminary and recently wrote a book called Redeeming our Sacred Story: The Death of Jesus and Relations between Jews and Christians. Professor Boys explained that, "the Gospels are not a playback documentary of what happened two thousand years ago."
Professor Boys emphasized to me what crucifixion really was: "Crucifixion functioned as a state sanctioned punishment to terrorize and pacify the population for Roman rule." In other words, Christians need to understand that crucifixion was simply not something that the Jews could order.
Ignorant or willful misunderstanding of the death of Jesus has led to horrible oppression of Jewish people over the last two thousand years. Christians celebrating Easter should remember that Good Friday was a day when Christians went on rampages against Jews often leading to their deaths. If you need any proof there is a fun lemonade drink popular in Spain around Easter called "Matar Judios" or "Kill Jews."
Of course, the most obvious reason to get rid of this horrible language is because it obscures the fact that Jesus was a Jew, and that all his followers were Jewish, every disciple, all the early people of the Jesus movement were Jewish. To say Jews killed Jesus erases Jesus' true identity -- which was as a Jew.
I asked Professor Boys what we should do about the problem of anti-Jewish narratives within Christian churches and she was very succinct: "We have to change the liturgies. The passion narratives should not be read without commentary on who Jesus was and what his wider ministry was about."
Now I should interject here that most religions have passages that foster animosity towards outside groups. Certainly Judaism has passages in their liturgies that are similarly uncomfortable. What I am calling for, in a broader sense, is an educational effort across the board on these difficult and often violent passages in our scriptures, and to develop some consensus on how to deal with them.
The great scholar of the Gospel of John Raymond Brown was acutely aware of the presence of anti-Jewish language in the text having spent his life studying it. Here are his thoughts:An initial response is... to omit the anti-Jewish sections from the public reading of the passion narrative. In my opinion, a truer response is to continue to read the whole passion, not subjecting it to excisions that seem wise to us, but once having read it, then to preach forcefully that such hostility between Christian and Jew cannot be continued today and is against our fundamental understanding of Christianity.
I have to say that this seems like probably the best solution. We can't pretend like these texts don't exist, but we can explain why it is impermissible and a betrayal of Jesus to use these texts to continue the horrible anti-Jewish sentiment that has plagued Christianity.
For more resources go to Critical Reflections on the Passion Narrative of the Good Friday Liturgy by J. Frank Henderson.
Mudit Kakkar: Why The Future Belongs To Google -- Part Ii 2014-04-17
If you have read the first part of this series, I have written about the strengths and foibles of two enormous tech giants -- Apple and Microsoft. In the final part of this series, I am turning my attention to another giant and delving deep into the big G.
Big as a Galaxy
They're responsible for a sixth of Korea's economy, played the protagonist in the Miracle on the Han River, tower above giants in an elite group of conglomerates called chaebols; and if you happen to visit Seoul, the name 'Samsung' is a leitmotif and its influence, epic.
Most people do a double take when they're told that a brand we associate most with phones and televisions was also the primary contractor for the world's tallest building, are the second largest shipbuilder around, fancy aeronautics and weaponry and own a theme park to round it off. Reminds you of some sovereign ruler? This is Samsung, and its $288 billion empire is huge, multifarious and flourishing.
Samsung electronics is the crowning jewel of the Samsung group, a powerful arm which has earned it high praise, immense recognition and multiple billions. It employs more than 370,000 people and prides itself on being the world's largest maker of LCD screens and mobile phones. Founded as a trading company, Samsung forged its legend through the Korean War and a prolonged period of economic turmoil to become the titan that it is today.
Their rise to prominence in the consumer electronics segment has been accentuated by some stellar mobile devices they've produced. When no smartphone could hold a candle to the mighty iPhone, Samsung's Galaxy SII got heads turning with its brilliant execution of an Android OS which was still nascent. It was fast, bright and asserted that the world will not be dominated by just one company's ideas. Following it up with an even more imperious Galaxy SIII a year later, Samsung really took the bull by its horns. While the competition was still learning the ropes of creating truly great devices, Apple, dented by Samsung's increasing prowess, took the Koreans to the courtroom to ban handsets, dictate interfaces and allege theft. It wound up to be a vicious, protracted battle fought with such ferocity that at one point, the judge held up an iPad and a Galaxy Tab above her head for a Samsung attorney to tell them apart. He couldn't.
Yes Samsung's devices changed their profile radically in the wake of the iPhone because they had to compete with an entirely new animal. The iPhone fired everyone's imagination when it came out and continues to inspire designs even today, but that's perfectly alright; they're inspired, not ripped off. Samsung's Galaxy line is their interpretation of the smartphone, just like the iPhone is Apple's. If Apple wants to blur the line between inspiration and copying, well I am afraid, they themselves owe the court an explanation for a few new iOS 7 features then.
Samsung has already paid Apple more than a billion dollars in 'damages' and if Apple has their way, Samsung will have to shell out a couple more billions. Notwithstanding the steady courtroom, jibes, Apple still continues to ink deals with Samsung in the boardroom. Irony abounds!
Still, Samsung has its own problems, and they're not about the megapixels in their next camera.
People inside Samsung describe a state of crisis, abetted by a persistent fear that the company might lose everything at any moment. There are no breaks to celebrate wins; there's only what's next. The workplace is run by martinets. It's normal to see employees bow to their superiors. With little power vested in small teams, innovation entails going through a labyrinthine hierarchy to get approvals, and yet being coerced into rushing a product to the market, even if it's not truly first-rate, just like the unwieldy Galaxy Gear.
Never known for producing top-tier applications, Samsung has lately been panned for choking phones with slipshod apps that are, at best, show boats. Truly well designed, practical interfaces have been regular fair in organizations like Apple and Google. Samsung though is either yet to hire those developers or give them the laissez-faire to write elegant code. While an iPhone 5s or a Nexus 5 will never be manufactured ingenuously in Apple or Google, their operating system is coded to the T by the Americans. It's an open secret the installed software creates experiences; hardware is just a vessel to host it. Samsung puts together probably the best hardware available but the same can't be said for the software they push. Looking into the crystal ball, they want to ship devices with a home-grown operating system, creating a seamless experience for the user and maybe forgoing Google's Android in time. It is a far-fetched idea, one that is still a reverie, but first Bada and now Tizen are determined to get a foot in the door.
One of the people behind Samsung's new-fangled focus is David Eun, a Korean-American executive who has worked at AOL and Google. In a stroke of genius, he suggested that some top Samsung executives go round Silicon Valley and explore software's polestar.
The road trip proved illuminating. Samsung decided a base in Silicon Valley was in order if it truly wanted to compete with software giants.
Lee Kun-hee did not take long to execute perhaps his most ambitious move yet; trying to bring a bit of the Silicon Valley culture to Samsung. A 10-story building geared towards research, sprouting in the tony San Jose, a bold accelerator program and a little startup ethos are signs of things to come. They welcome the fading puritanism in the Korean powerhouse, and underpins that Samsung could really be onto what they've painted on a wall in their upcoming 1.1 million square feet office -- "The Next Big Thing."
This company has a canny knack of knowing where you are, what you're about to do next, when you leave for that meeting and for the club later in the evening.
It's extraordinary that a service which occupies so much mind share uses a an absolutely stark homepage. What seems like brilliant design now was actually born out of its creator's thirst for express searches and some ineptitude at HTML. Early tests on the website had users gawking at their screens, waiting for the page to load, which it already had, seconds ago. Simplicity is a feature and limited knowledge, a latent advantage.
What this spawned, over the next few years, was the true democratization of the Internet. As with most things, we did not know we needed better search before it became indispensable. We did not know that threaded conversations were better than disjointed emails. We wished for, but never knew that cars might seriously be driven by computers in a not so distant future.
This is Google. By their own proclamation, they do "cool stuff that matters" and prefer not being evil, a claim validated when they rent goats instead of lawn mowers to trim weed at the Googleplex, in an activity they say is both "cute" and "low-carbon."
It might not be best product possible when Google releases it, but they will iterate and hone it so quickly that version 1.0 would soon become a relic. The sheer speed and tenacity with which Google moves to augment functionalities and simplify interfaces is a study in itself. Every now and then, when you open Gmail, YouTube or Search itself, a revised look or a fresh feature appears, dissolves without a trace and cumulatively improves the quality of the service. Gmail was infact famously kept in beta even after it had been widely adopted. Chrome too, has quietly been through thirty-four iterations. Its innards have been tweaked and fine-tuned for an experience which Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox aren't capable of, despite a huge head start.
With Google, change is constant and happens fast; within two years Android has gone from clunky to elegant, Maps have been redesigned from the ground up, Drive, with peerless pricing has truly arrived, and good old search just keeps getting smarter.
Continuous improvement is precisely what separates the companies that stay relevant from those which don't. There's hardly any room for slack in organizations which are truly committed to their cause. People ask, 'Why fix it if it isn't broken?' To which I say, 'Why wait for it to break?' Why can't we honestly assess ourselves and work on our weaknesses? Didn't we learn that prevention is better than cure?
Design -- changing it before it breaks
Traditionally, Google was never known for excellent software or hardware design. That honour was always Apple's to enjoy. The summer of 2011 however, was going to wreck the status quo. Within a week of taking over as CEO, Larry Page got together the people in command and presented a vision of a revamped Google which is so delightful that searching for something seemed more like doing magic than using technology, one where all apps look consistent and speak the same design language. He called it "One Beautiful Google." They did not appoint a Jony Ive. Instead, they gave free rein to design leads and their teams to collaborate and concoct what they feel would appeal to the user. There were no design 'standards' to conform to. There was just an appeal -- to make it great.
Google's designers employed an enduring design trend called the card. These little white boxes of information are designed to serve up nuggets of information, display items of importance and strip away distracting gradients. Carrying neat typography and sharp icons, cards soon became a dominant design motif and made their way to Google+, Google Now and even Google Glass.
Always strutting its data-driven efforts, Google has been known to examine traffic logs to find out which of its 41 shades of blue garner the most clicks on the search results page. A rather progressive analysis of user data was carried out to design Gmail's new compose window which was going to sit in a corner instead of overlaying the inbox view. Designers burrowed into logs to grasp the average length of sentences and arrive at the right size of the window. They also realized that most people never used to format text, so they hid all those buttons for formatting inside one single button. Neat.
That Google really empowered its designers to create something new came to the fore during the inception of the intelligent mobile assistant Google Now. The key technologies for accomplishing this were well in place. What wasn't, was a way to articulate the reams of dynamic information. Here for the first time in Google's history, designers determined how a product would work. Teams from search, mapping and the likes worked together, prototyped and polished what turned out to be a truly remarkable interface for providing answers when you need them.
Google's approach to beautiful design is a company-wide thrust which is also rubbing off on Android and Chrome OS. The Chromebook Pixel is a another shining example of stellar industrial design with a price to match. The immensely popular Nexus family of devices on the other hand, is proof that good-looking, cutting edge devices can be sold at very attractive prices.
The design revolution at Google is real. There was never a better time to be a designer at Google.
Android -- it came, it saw, it conquered
The world's most used mobile operating system, loved by millions and the sole reason why a certain fruit company is bleeding. When Larry Page and Sergey Brin set out to acquire Android, Eric Schmidt wasn't even in the know. Andy Rubin sold it off at a price so low that it has never been revealed.
It was one of those acquisitions which Google makes every week and would have probably gone unnoticed had it not made it big. The earliest version of Android was an experiment, a callow project, whose potential no one fully understood. HTC Hero, the first Android powered smartphone looked exactly like one of those devices from the time which stood up to the mighty iPhone only to be humiliated. Only a few sagacious minds said that Android could at least make a mark if not a crater. What Android did- created a crater, invited everyone to contribute to the party and presented free desserts to the rest of the world. Android advanced at breakneck speed, its features multiplying with every release and optimizations coming in thick and fast. Geeks loved its openness, Symbian users went gaga over the fluidity, iPhone users were hard to convert, but secretly admired the ability to customize a phone. Google knew it needed a Herculean effort to match the eloquence of iOS, let alone surpass it. Eventually, Android dethroned iOS in spectacular manner. The fledgling software, came of age; from a frail 1.5 Cupcake to the now mature 4.4.2 KitKat, and the difference between the two is like night and day.
Yes, the fragmentation issue is unsettling. It hurt the Android of yore terribly. Moving forward, a bit more benevolence from device manufacturers in issuing timely updates has greatly mellowed the din against the biggest F word for Android. Moreover, the latest version of Android is designed to run smoothly even on lower-end devices, bolstering its endeavor to have everyone on the same page and ease development.
Today Android represents the wide gamut of opportunities present in gadgets that had long been accepted as being far removed from computing. With Android Wear, Google is making a serious foray into wearable computers. Moto 360, running on Wear, looks like someone has finally cracked the smartwatch after several failed attempts. Expect to be notified of heavy traffic, unaccomplished fitness goals or cab reservations at a flick of the wrist. It won't take long to erect a sizable app selection for wearable tech given Google's affinity for open-source development. More importantly, unlike with Android, Google wouldn't have to work its tail off to stay ahead of the curve; it just created the curve. Android Wear gives it a real shot at transforming more electric gadgets into electronic ones.
What Google has created from Android is unmatched. They have shaped a malleable operating system which is free for all and can be installed on everything from refrigerators to game consoles. Everything is tied into one giant ecosystem and controlled from simple gestures or voice commands. That is one big inroad into obtaining the keys to the future.
Having their cake and eating it too
While Google strives to sharpen existing products, it never loses the foresight to work on some completely offbeat projects which might have no connection with their current line of businesses. Called 'moonshot' projects by Page and conceived at the clandestine Google X Labs, this is where Google aims to generate truly disruptive ideas. Google Glass, driver-less cars, robots and internet delivery via balloons are dogged about creating reality from fiction. They are harbingers of tomorrow. Thermostats, drones, watches -- seemingly humble devices are being thrown into the web of boundless power. They are a peek into the future -- crazy ideas which could be called brilliant inventions in hindsight. As Internet companies like Amazon and Google start infiltrating markets with tangible products, it is becoming clear that they want to interact with customers at a more personal level. This isn't just organizing information and making it easily accessible, it's much more.
When the air conditioners and ovens in our households finally start talking to our mobile devices, it wouldn't be a battle for supremacy between a Hitachi or a Siemens but instead between companies whose customers are connected to the Internet. It is an opportunity for anyone to grab, yet very few tech companies seem genuinely interested. Imagine asking your self-driven car to open the door to your house, ignite the fireplace, set off ambient lighting and park itself in the garage when you return home from a busy day at work. Sounds like a ton of convenience, but in Google's world, we're barely scratching the surface of technological dexterity.
Google knows when to acquire a company and when to retire an existing service. The Nest acquisition was perfectly timed. Motorola's acquisition did not exactly turn out to be a money-spinner, but it did give them rights to an enviable dossier of patents which won't be leaving their hands even after Lenovo overtakes Motorola. Likewise, it is swift when it comes to shutting down services which never really took off or are no longer relevant, allowing them to focus on stuff that really matters.
For a company whose revenues have grown multiple folds on the back of targeted advertising across all its services, it is but natural that at some point, these had to begin feeling intrusive. The adage goes 'If you're not paying for a product, you are the product being sold'. Truth is, ads have been here since before the dawn of electronic media and are here to stay. Commercial breaks have been fed to us since time immemorial. Brands pay millions every year for a few seconds of presence at the Superbowl. The only difference between online and offline advertising is that the former can be made relevant to each user. Therein, lies the key to making ads likable. An example -- if a search for a 'Blue striped polo' throws up sponsored results from e-commerce websites where I have a history of making purchases and am inclined to again, ads are helping me out and I am all in. However, if the sponsored results are sprinkled with bleak, obscure websites which I've never heard of and which can't guarantee good service, the chorus against advertising will just get shriller. Tailor ads to really be helpful, make them more personal and meaningful, and attitudes will change.
At the moment, Google is hard at work to make our lives easier, more connected and rather enjoyable. This has always been a company with a proclivity towards the human touch to keep its customers smiling. This becomes evident with those clever easter eggs, well-timed doodles for very occasion and impassioned product videos; the one which tells the story of a reunion of two childhood friends separated during the partition of India and Pakistan really warms the cockles of the heart.
There are many things which sets Google apart from its contemporaries. Beneath it's facade of a crusading Silicon Valley giant, it has got happy (and well-fed) employees which make it happen. It fosters innovation and has been continuously rated as one of the best places to work for. Despite an enviable suite of services Google is more than just a sum of its parts. It understands the power in people and their potential impact on technology like no one else.
It is often said that on the Internet, nothing is too big. Everything eventually crumbles and makes way for new order. But what if one held the keys to the future and the resources to start working on it today. That is Google, and the future belongs to them.
Mudit is an engineer, analyst and writer. Register for the soon to be launched ProsePot.com
Yongjun Min: How Korean Media Got The Ferry Tragedy All Wrong 2014-04-17
On Wednesday 16, Korean media broadcasted the news about the sinking of the ferry in Jindo during the whole day. It was horrible. And the current state of Korean media is as horrible as the news.
The HBO series "The Newsroom" is about people who produce news. This TV show, which realistically conveys the atmosphere of a newsroom centered around well-known anchor Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), gives the impression of witnessing how real news is made through the integration of actual contemporary events. In doing so, it explores the value of fairness in televised journalism.
I think the most impressive scene was the ending of the first season's fourth episode, which depicts the process of collecting information and preparing the news broadcast following a sudden shooting that occurred one weekend in Arizona. The essence of this breaking news is the fact that Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot while attending an event. As the shooting is reported on the radio, all cable news channels start to do a follow up on her death, and Will's newsroom starts to buzz as well. Yet the staff merely observe the situation and gird themselves for the official confirmation of her death instead of joining the other media's series of newsflashes on inaccurate pieces of information. But the broadcasting station's president's young son starts to press them about why they are not officially announcing Gifford's death, and he even storms into the newsroom in the midst of newscast. Then a staff member says, "It is a person's life. It is not the news but the doctor who should announce it." Finally we learn that the other media outlets carried a false report as the hospital announces that Giffords is still alive and undergoing surgery. McAvoy's newsroom has a chance to report the truth only by being patient and fact-checking the information.
It was a tough day, and another tough day continues. Since the morning of the 16, news reported the sinking of a ferry in the sea around Jindo. Around 10 am, a government brief announced that a total of 477 passengers were on board this Jindo-bound ferry, including 325 students of Danwon High School who were on a school trip. It was agonizing just to hear about it. Fortunately the follow-up news reported that all the students would be rescued, and at around 11 am the students' parents received text messages that they all had been. Further news, however, announced that this previous report was false.
The number of missing persons continued to change, and even the total number of passengers began to appear unclear. The government's announcement of the number of missing persons behaved like a rubber-band, increasing at one moment and decreasing at another. Accordingly, the media continued to correct their initial figures. The worst situation occurred at around 4:30 pm. The media corrected the number of rescues from 368 to 164, cutting the initial number in half, following the discovery of an error in counting. Not much progress has been made regarding the number of further rescues since this dreadful news had drowned people's hope for a fully successful rescue operation. As if encouraging this dark premonition, night set in, and my heart continued to sink.
A reporter sullenly expressed complaints that the government's data had never been so inaccurate. But was the government's data the only problem? The media race to report on the event, which started around 10 am, was widely inaccurate.
Without exception, online and television news, including public broadcast and cable channels, put up the sign "breaking news" for all information received from the scene of the tragic events in Jindo. All reported on the government's announcement. No one asked any questions. The will to report was stronger than the will to know. The speed of information was more important than its accuracy. It seemed like there were no reporters, only stenographers. The present state of media clearly came into view. Jindo became a battlefield for a media competing for breaking news and accelerated by online news portals. In the meantime, unspeakable things started appearing in the press under the guise of an accurate report. An article of The Etoday, inconceivably entitled "Titanic, Poseidon, and What Other Movies of Boating Accidents?" was published around 2.40 pm and swiftly denounced by the public. It didn't matter. For it was an "abusive" article that sought to attract more traffic by being controversial. In 15 minutes this media outlet displayed its full identity as media by publishing another article with the scandalous headline "SKT Sends Relief and Installs a Temporary Base-Station 'Handsome~Handsome'" (translator's note: SKT is a telecommunications company and "Handsome~Handsome" is the title of a song in one of their well-known commercials). The article has since been deleted.
On the other hand, a few internet media outlets started delivering articles focusing on the ferry's insurance coverage. Chosun.com released an article with the headline "Sewol Ferry's Insurance: Dongbu Insurance for Students and Meritz Marine Insurance for the Ferry." As if encouraged by these online articles, the public broadcasting company MBC reported a detailed analysis of how much compensation for the loss could be claimed based on the insurance policy. Such reports could have given rise to conspiracy theories about the sinking being a form of product placement for the insurance company. On the same day, News 9 of JTBC began with a long apology by the anchorman Suk-hee Son: "Today many audience members took offense at some questions that our reporter asked a rescued student during the news of the ferry's sinking. No excuses and explanations will be necessary. As a senior anchor and the chief executive of the news department, it is my fault that I didn't relay what I had learned to junior anchors. My sincere apologies." His apology felt like a ray of sunshine in the middle of the news media's daylong battle for fast information on Wednesday. Media's responsibility to acknowledge errors and apologize for them is as important as the imperative of impartial reporting. At least News 9, or at least Suk-hee Son stood up to that responsibility. How fortunate."We have to recover media. We have to make it an honorable profession again. We have to make sure that the evening news delivers information and provides a discussion forum suiting a great country and that it recognizes and respects etiquette and thus returns to its original mission. Forget the superficial, no more gossip or voyeurism. Deliver the truth to the public even if they are blind -- not the story people want to hear. Let the media become what binds us together."
These are lines from "The Newsroom". Ironically, today's Korean media behaves in a different way. Something horrible happened, and the media delivers the news. Before relaying the truth, however, a hideous tendency takes over. Their inaccurate reporting tramples on the wounded victims. We are still waiting to hear the information we want to know, yet incorrect information is rashly offered instead.
Somebody's tragedy becomes a show, sold and used up in a second. It appears as if all media outlets were on the same page because they were all shameless. The behavior of the press on Wednesday was no better than selling goods on the shelves of online shopping malls and home shopping channels. There was no courtesy for the news' source nor for its readers. Jindo was struck by a salesman's desire to sell anything. On social networks, reporters were called "Giregi" in mockery, which is a neologism of "gija" (reporter) and "ssuregi" (garbage). It is an attack that summarizes the current state of Korean media, a bitter analogy of how language is used and abused for the sake of profit.
The film "Good Night, and Good Luck" directed by George Clooney is about Edward R. Murrow, CBS's famous news broadcaster. He never gave up on the voice of truth during the wave of McCarthyism in America during the 1940s and was a persistent, contributing factor when Joseph McCarthy stepped down. Murrow said, "TV can teach us. It may even enlighten us and inspire us. But in order for it to do so, we must use it for that purpose. Otherwise, TV is nothing but a stupid box." It is always apparent that media must pursue truth. But pursuing truth requires resolution and ability. For the process of approaching truth is not possible through merely planning and aiming for justice. People in today's society are surrounded by many languages. They share all sorts of information via smart phones and see events all over the world. But being able to assess all this information is an individual responsibility.
The reader knows, can know, or must know. It is not only media that produces gossip. Delivering public information that potentially has a great influence on individuals' lives, which is commonly known as "the right to know," is the purpose of journalistic media. The most important thing is whether media is functioning properly or not. Next is whether we are capable of assessing the information it reports. As important as the appearance of a media with convictions might be the public itself who can make sure the media stays true to its mission.
Edward Murrow remarks, "To persuade others, you must be trusted; to be trusted, you must inspire confidence; and to inspire confidence, you must be honest." It is ideal that the public and media trust one another. A society that features a trustworthy media and a supportive public can move forward. And we can and must find better values. News is still being reported from Jindo. I just saw the news that the second part of the search has begun. We must not give up hope. Media must become a newsstand that banks on the public's desire for hope. Please promise to do your best today. Do not drive for simple gossip but for the truth that is necessary for everyone. Make the mere show go away.
Above all, I earnestly hope for the long-awaited news of further rescues. I pray.
And my warmest tribute to the memory of the deceased.
This post has been translated from Korean and was originally published on HuffPost Korea.
Michael Shank: Ukraine Diplomatic Deal: Necessary Next Steps 2014-04-17
The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) urges Congress, the Obama administration and policymakers throughout the European Union to adopt policies toward the Ukraine crisis that deescalate the conflict while providing a constructive path forward. The diplomatic deal struck this week by diplomats from the United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union, who agreed to a framework plan designed to end violence in Ukraine, is a very positive step in the right direction.
As with many intractable conflicts and violence, the root cause of the conflict has to do with unmet basic human needs, whether identity-related or economically-related or other. Ukraine's political and economic institutions have struggled for years to provide sustainable livelihoods for its population, including Crimea's, making the country vulnerable to instability and susceptible to violence. Western engagement with economic aid should be focused on constructively supporting and strengthening the country's indigenous institutions and markets.
Beyond economic aid to Ukraine and other Eastern European nations, we have identified four overarching themes that should be reinforced and reaffirmed by Congress and the administration.
Uphold International Law
Russian President Vladimir Putin contravened international law in taking control of Crimea. But if the international community wants to ensure that international law is upheld going forward it must do a better job of holding all actors accountable. Calling for accountability in Putin's case requires the international community to also call for accountability in cases involving the U.S. government, current and recent. That means that the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq (which occurred without the support of the U.N. Security Council), Libya, Yemen and others, must be held to the same western standard that we are now holding Putin. For more on this, please read "Ukraine and the Crisis of International Law" by Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.
The recent history of the United States and other governments supporting secessionist movements has further confused the international precedent in the case of Ukraine. Examples include the U.S. support for Somaliland and Puntland in Somalia and efforts to undermine sovereign Somalia and their government in Mogadishu -- as well as the West's support for changing borders in South Sudan, Kosovo, Falklands, Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, and Kashmir -- must also be questioned and evaluated with the same rigor and regulations applied to Russia's moves in Crimea. Deescalate Military Momentum The Friends Committee on National Legislation is very supportive of the diplomatic deal that was struck this month to disarm, and provide amnesty for, separatist militants operating in eastern Ukraine. This is very positive nonmilitary move in the direction of de-escalation. Relatedly, FCNL does not support the expansion of NATO forces in Eastern Europe. The call for increased NATO presence is primarily coming from Washington and the NATO member states are not unified on this approach. While Eastern European countries, such as Poland and some Baltic states, are understandably concerned about Russian aggression, expanding NATO involvement will put their countries at greater risk of violence and instability, not less.
The European Union has a substantial number of contracts and financial commitments in Russia that give these countries a huge stake in, and influence over, the continued negotiations. Given the strength of these economic ties, this network provides a basis for actions to encourage and, if necessary, apply pressure for a long-term solution to the Ukraine crisis.
Sanctions are often viewed as the best instrument to force a change in policy, but sanctions can force the sanctioned country to be more recalcitrant rather than more compliant (as many in the West publicly assume would happen with tougher sanctions). Germany's 6,000-strong business ties to Russia, for example, should be utilized to encourage constructive Russian action going forward. Incentivizing good political behavior often goes far further, in getting the desired action, than castigation from the international community.
Transition off Fossil Fuels Western Europe's partial reliance on Russian natural gas for its energy portfolio has led some public officials in the United States to call on Washington to supplant Russian gas with U.S. gas and crude oil. A move like this, which would take years to materialize, would increase fracking throughout America and increase America's carbon footprint -- thanks to energy- and-carbon-intensive crude oil. There is a reason why many of these exports have been banned up until this point. A careless and quick removal of that ban, then, is ill-advised.
The European reliance on Russia also should not be overstated. Germany, for example, imports roughly 35 percent of its gas from Russia (one of the largest European importers of Russian gas) but Germany's overall gas use makes up only 11 percent of its total energy portfolio. Germany, furthermore, is quickly transitioning to renewable energy sources, maintains some of the most aggressive targets in the E.U., and will soon no longer need gas imports on par with current precedent.
Rather than seeking to increase fossil fuel dependence, the U.S. government could use this opportunity to stress the importance of building up a renewable energy infrastructure, which will offer a more sustainable future politically, financially, and, of course, environmentally. For more on how and why this should be done, please read "Ukraine Crisis Underscores Need for Renewables Push" by Michael Shank and former U.S. Congressman Russ Carnahan.
Support Multi-Track Diplomacy The only long-term solution to this crisis will come through diplomacy. The most important next step is developing increased communication across all available channels, among actors in Washington and Brussels and Moscow and everyone in between. This is an all-hands-on-deck diplomatic situation. While President Obama and President Putin started talking this month, much more dialogue is needed. Additionally, Secretary of State John Kerry's conversations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offer some solid foundation for continued conversation but, at present, remain insufficient. Comparing the present situation to the Cold War is unhelpful.
Going forward, the U.S. and the E.U. should engage public and private sector stakeholders who have pre-existing relationships with Russian counterparts to make fertile the ground for continued political diplomatic discussions and deal making. It requires business, civil society, religious and academic communities to leverage their cross-boundary ties for the benefit of Eastern Europeans who face instability and insecurity. The time is now before violence escalates, positions harden, and the conflict becomes completely intractable. For more on ways in which the West can defuse this crisis, please read "How to Defuse the Ukraine Crisis."
The other "step" that we think is needed is emergency, short-term economic assistance to Ukraine. Ukraine's economy was unstable before Crimea; it may now be on verge of a complete collapse. In addition to aid, the U.S. could suspend all import tariffs from Ukraine for the next two years and urge the E.U. to do the same. Other direct economic assistance may also be needed.
FCNL's Associate Director for Legislative Affairs, Michael Shank, recently participated in a high-level U.S.-E.U. transatlantic dialogue in Germany and Poland, sponsored by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a German foundation, on the crisis in Ukraine and how the West should deal with Russia going forward. Since that trip, Michael Shank has been writing regularly on the conflict, suggesting alternatives and nonviolent solutions to this crisis.
Olivia Cole: Why Steve Harvey Needs To Have A Seat 2014-04-17
As Mimi Faust and Nikko Smith's sex tape makes the rounds on the Internet, I knew it was only a matter of time before the policing began. Sure enough, yesterday, a friend posted a recording of Steve Harvey on the radio, in which he earnestly advised "young women" against the making of sex tapes, etc.
The excerpt of his little speech that I heard begins with him explaining that the Internet is forever, and how what gets put online stays online forever. Case in point. And while it's true that many people -- young or not -- lack full understanding of the permanence of the Internet and how nothing can ever be truly erased, I already have a problem with the direction this sermon is going because..."young women?" Now, I haven't actually seen Mimi and Nikko's sex tape, but from what I understand... it's a sex tape with Mimi and Nikko. Not Mimi. Mimi and Nikko.
Steve Harvey-types view women and sex through the lens that misogyny has provided for centuries: The lens that renders men invisible when there is an instance of shame being doled out. Casual sex, unwed pregnancy; centuries of misogyny dictate that it only takes one to tango; that the shame of "illicit" sex falls squarely on the shoulders of one and not two. And those shoulders always belong to a woman. When it comes to wagging a finger or calling someone a whore for premarital sexual activity, the man involved somehow dematerializes into a puff of smoke, leaving the woman to bear the brunt of society's scorn alone.
In the radio recording, Steve Harvey goes on to rail against the Internet: "The Internet has become a playground for evildoers. You sit up and you listen to somebody and all the sudden they're making decisions and comments about you and they never even met you."
He then adds: "Please young women out there, think of yourself... think about what people will say about you when you're not around; stuff people will say behind your back."
What's annoying about Steve Harvey is that he delivers these little gems under the guise of being interested in the empowerment/protection of women and girls. A thin guise, I might add. Harvey warns girls about the backlash they will receive from random people on the Internet if they participate in a sex tape, but isn't Harvey pretty much exactly that: A random voice on the Internet/TV/radio making comments about girls and women he's "never even met?" He cautions us about the shame we will receive if we dare make a sex tape, but uses the same shame as the tool to keep us from doing it. Shamed if you do; shamed if you don't. According to Harvey, women's lives should be dictated by the expectations and presumptions of others. Our bodies are not our own: We exist at the will of laws perpetuated by people like Steve Harvey, who would have us covering our ankles in the name of modesty. Harvey isn't interested in empowering us; he only wants to lay red tape in tight boxes around us in his effort to corral us into his idea of the ideal woman.
And Steve Harvey's ideal woman is exactly what you would expect, fitting neatly into the virgin/whore dichotomy that has plagued women for lifetimes. "You're not here for sex," Harvey says in the recording. "You're here for life. God didn't create you for sex."
And why not? Why are we not here for sex? Isn't it part of life? But more importantly, how did this conversation go from talking about sex tapes to sex in general? It's one thing to say "Hey boys and girls, sex tapes are forever. It may be sexy now, but you may not want the whole world seeing that in ten years." Sure. Fair facts. But that's not enough for Harvey, and for some reason, he seems incapable of addressing boys. Only girls. Rather than using the Mimi and Nikko sex tape as a teachable moment about privacy, permanence and the longevity of Internet decisions, Harvey can't resist transforming that moment into a diatribe about shame and God's plan for women's bodies.
You see, those who are truly interested in empowering women and girls use different words. Instead of "Think of the horrible things people will say about you," people who are truly interested in empowering women and girls say, "Don't worry about what people say. You are autonomous." Instead of, "You weren't put here for sex," people who are truly interested in empowering women and girls say, "Sex is one of many beautiful parts of life when it is consensual. You can have as much or as little of it as you want; just protect yourself." These are the words we use when we seek to empower girls and women. The kind of shaming tactics Steve Harvey employs are not only tired, patriarchal regurgitations, but they fly in the face of actual women's empowerment and turn "sex" and "women" into painful opposites that should have nothing to do with another. And everything else aside: men and boys are still absent from Harvey's lecture.
This has all been written about before. Extensively. Yet, Steve Harvey still added this to the end of his little speech:You're putting your most precious gift out on display. For a pearl, you gotta dive to the bottom of the ocean... Ain't no diamonds laying on top of the earth: they don't grow like corn... This thing every man got to have: your body. Your precious jewel. You're sitting on a gold mine. Please act like it, young ladies. Act like you're sitting on a gold mine. Because it is what every man is after. And we will pay dearly for it.
Is anybody else creeped out? Is anybody else extremely uncomfortable about the fact that Steve Harvey is telling girls that they should treat their vaginas like a means of currency, because men will "pay dearly for it"? Let me tell you a few things, Mr. Harvey. I'll put them in bullet points so you don't miss anything:
Women's vaginas are not our most precious gift. Our minds, our souls, our personalities, are far more precious and will do more for us in our lives than the so-called gold mine between our legs. In fact, for vaginas to be gold mines, they don't bring us much gold just sitting down there being vaginas. Ever heard of women's struggle for equal pay? Come on, Steve. Diamonds aren't that f*cking great. In fact, they're intrinsically worthless. Their value is based on artificial scarcity, a system created by tycoons who seek to propagate the belief of their rarity to increase their worth. It's almost like the idea of chastity. Chew on that. If women "aren't here for sex," yet it's the thing that "every man wants," then does that mean that men are here for sex? Why would "God" make men for sex and not women? That seems silly. No, it doesn't seem silly. It is. Nikko was in the sex tape too. Where's your sermon for him? Aren't men and boys' bodies just as valuable? Is their sex not also precious?
Steve Harvey's explicit advice to young women is that when it comes to our sexual activity, we should think before we act -- before we "give it away" -- because "think of what people will say about us behind our backs." And when it comes to a society that makes women's bodies and what women do with them a matter of scorn and shame, Steve Harvey knows which side he's on: The side that does the scorning and the shaming. His critique looks no further: It stops at the young women who are held prisoner by this ideology. He does not criticize the ideology itself; rather, he upholds it.
Steve Harvey is not interested in empowering or protecting young women. Instead, he joins the likes of Tyler Perry, Tyrese and Chey B, who sit on their towering soap boxes making money off policing the lives and bodies of women. Write a book about young boys for once, Mr. Harvey, if you want to impress me; write a book about rape culture and the way we teach young men that women's bodies are trophies, objects, status symbols, commodities.
Oh, wait. You already know. Because with all your jabbering about gold mines and diamonds and precious jewels, you're doing the teaching. The woman, Mimi, that you are criticizing is doing exactly what you suggest. You said what's between our legs is a gold mine, right? Isn't Mimi set to make a gold mine from this sex tape? Oh, but that's not what you meant, right? A little too much autonomy, mixed with too little care for "what people say behind her back." Have a seat, Mr. Harvey. Have this one. Or this one. Or this one. Just make sure you choose a sturdy chair, because times are changing: Women see through your crap and we're not here for it. Get comfortable. You may be sitting for a long time.
David Katz, M.d.: Of Salt, Saltation And Salience: The Case For Fixing What's Broken 2014-04-17
We have long had abundant reason to believe that most of us living in the modern world consume too much sodium and would benefit from consuming less. But whether the topic is salt, or saturated fat, or calories, or even the health effects of consuming vegetables and fruits -- saltation (the jumping from one position to another) seems to be the prevailing inclination in modern nutrition. Certainly it is the inclination that predominates in the popular press. Salt is just the latest nutrient to get caught up in that proclivity.
This isn't the first time salt claimed its 15 minutes of notoriety. Just less than a year ago, I was prompted to address this issue by an IOM report questioning the gospel of "less is better" with regard to sodium intake. Two recent studies compel me to revisit the topic now. For those who like the punch line up front, I can tell you my conclusion is much as it was. I remain convinced that most of us consume too much salt, and would benefit from reducing our intake. And yes, of course, it's possible to consume too little.
Of the two recent studies on salt intake and health outcomes, predictably the one that challenged the prevailing view garnered more media attention. That study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension in early April, was a meta-analysis examining sodium intake in populations around the world and its association with both all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease.
The authors concluded that mortality and heart disease rates were higher among those with both low and high sodium intake, and lower for those with intake in the middle range. Because dietary guidelines from the relevant authorities, including the IOM, the CDC, and the USDA all emphasize a reduction in our customarily excessive salt intake, the more provocative message in this study was the potential danger in consuming too little. So "salt guidelines are too low" was the common pop culture assessment.
But there are a few problems with that conclusion. First, as the study authors stated, the increased risks of both heart disease and mortality were greater with high sodium intake, than with low. So if we were ranking our concerns based on this study alone, excess sodium would still be the bigger problem.
Second, the authors noted their meta-analysis was based almost entirely on observational, not intervention, trials. This meant studies simply looked at variation in sodium intake and compared that to variation in health outcomes. Studies like that beg the question: What accounted for the sodium variation in the first place? Some health conscious people may have a very low intake of sodium, but others likely to land there are people with maladies affecting the heart or kidneys, people who are under-nourished for any reason, and so on. The authors attempted to account for such considerations, but acknowledged a limited ability to do so. In other words, this study had limited capacity to tell us whether low sodium intake resulted in poor health, or whether poor health resulted in low sodium intake. Chances are there was some of both in the mix.
The more recent study, just published online in the British Medical Journal, took headlines in the opposite direction: Too much sodium is the problem after all. For this study, investigators tracked dietary patterns, including sodium intake, and sodium excretion, in representative samples of the population of England. Over the past decade, they tracked a number of dietary changes, and conducted analyses to determine the association of each with health outcomes. The particularly noteworthy findings were a reduction in sodium intake and excretion, associated with a population-wide reduction in mean blood pressure, in turn associated with a marked reduction in the mortality rate from both stroke and heart disease.
This study is subject to limitations of its own. But it does not suffer the problem of temporal association that bedevils the first. The gist is clear: A population-wide reduction in sodium intake over the past decade is almost certainly at least part of the reason for a population-wide reduction in blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality.
But conclusions about sodium in our diets should not be based on any one study, whatever its strengths or weaknesses, but rather the overall weight of evidence. That remains rather clear. Average sodium intake levels in the U.S. and much of the modernized world are higher than advised. Intervention studies, such as DASH, that have lowered levels to approximate prevailing guidelines, have lowered blood pressure as a result. Blood pressure reduction in turn has been strongly and consistently associated with reduced risk of both heart disease and stroke.
But there is more. Paleo diet enthusiasts rightly note that our native dietary intake pattern is likely to be "good" for us, since it is the pattern to which we are adapted. That adaptation is a powerful influence -- it's why koala bears should eat eucalyptus leaves, and lions should eat wildebeest. It stands to reason that adaptation is relevant to our species as well. There are many implications of "native" eating for Homo sapiens, but one of them is a much higher intake of potassium than sodium. The modern diet typically reverses this ratio. Arguments for sodium reduction thus derive from both modern science, and paleoanthropology.
Finally, the source of sodium is a relevant consideration. Roughly 80 percent of the sodium in the typical American diet comes not from personal use of a salt shaker, but from salt processed into our food before ever we get our hands on it. This implies that sodium intake tends to come down with consumption of less processed foods overall. While reduced sodium intake is likely beneficial in such context, the context of a less processed diet is apt to be beneficial in a variety of ways. With sodium, as with other nutrients of concern, if we get the foods and dietary pattern right, nutrients tend to take care of themselves.
Of course, the contention that we should reduce ambient sodium intake not by focusing on sodium, but by eating "food, not too much, mostly plants," invites the customary rebuttals: That's elitist, unrealistic, too expensive, and too hard. I disagree with these assertions and have addressed them in very practical terms. My group has studied the costs of trading up to better, less-processed, and among other things, less-salty options in any given food category, and found that it can generally be done without spending more money. We have developed and studied a nutrition guidance system and a free food label literacy program, showing that both can help people get there from here. Of importance to everyone who isn't a card-carrying member of the foodie elite, it is possible to trade up nutrition (and dial down sodium) without swapping out chips for chard; it's possible to make meaningful progress by eating better chips.
Sodium is an essential nutrient; of course we could, in principle, eat too little. We could, as well, drink too much water. Or exercise too much. Or sleep excessively. Or spend too much time fortifying bonds of friendship. I suppose we might devote too much of each day to hugging.
But really, what are the odds? We sleep and hug too little, work and stress too much. The theoretical dangers of overshooting are not a good reason to neglect what is currently broken.
Average sodium intake in the U.S. hovers well about 3,000 mg per day. While there is legitimate debate about health effects at levels below 2,300 mg per day, there is little about levels between here and there. Just to hit the targets in which we do have confidence, we have a long way to go. So it seems very premature to start encouraging people to worry about overshooting.
The prevailing fashion in nutrition, if not all of health news, is contrarianism. Cutting back on salt was yesterday's news. If today's news were the same as yesterday's news, we might not be confused, and desperately in need of tomorrow's news to help sort it all out. We can't have that! So as never before, contrarians and iconoclasts own the headlines.
But they don't really own the science, which is, as ever, a product of the gradual accumulation of data and genuine understanding over time -- not the single study that grabs 15 minutes in the spotlight. And they don't own our common sense -- which should tell us that worrying about doing too much is not a good reason to avoid doing enough.
The saltatory headlines notwithstanding, an excess of sodium is the salient, clear, and present danger for modern societies. While allowing for the hypothetical hazards of going too far, we should focus for now on fixing what we know to be broken.
Dr. David L. Katz is editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Childhood Obesity, and President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He is the author of Disease Proof, and most recently, of the epic novel, reVision.
Dr. David L. Katz is editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Childhood Obesity, and President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. He is the author of Disease Proof, and most recently, of the epic novel, reVision.
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Tavis Smiley: My Conversation With Best-selling Author Jackie Collins 2014-04-17
Tonight on PBS, I have a conversation with one of the world's most successful writers, Jackie Collins. She started writing as a teen and, since then, has sold more than 500 million copies of her books in more than 40 countries and had 29 best-sellers, many of which have been adapted for the big or small screens. Collins reflects on her longevity as a novelist and previews her seventh book in the Lucky Santangelo series, Confessions of a Wild Child, and her new cookbook inspired by the heroine, The Lucky Santangelo Cookbook. In the clip below, Collins details the three things one has to have in order to write a novel.
For more of our conversation, be sure to tune in to Tavis Smiley tonight on PBS. Check out our website for your local TV listings: http://www.pbs.org/tavis.
Neal M. Blitz, D.p.m., F.a.c.f.a.s.: Eli Manning's Ankle Arthroscopy And Prognosis -- A Foot Surgeon's Perspective 2014-04-17
As a New York City Foot Surgeon, I want to provide some insight on Eli Manning's "arthroscopic ankle debridement" surgery that was performed. The surgery has sparked concerns that his better days may be behind him. Of course, any surgery on a pro-athlete poses a threat to continue playing at high level. Before anyone can call it quits for Manning, its best to understand the surgery he had performed and what that really means in terms of recovery.
What is Ankle Arthroscopy Debridement?
Eli had a very common orthopedic procedure called an arthroscopy. It involves accessing a joint through very small incisions with the aid of surgical cameras and shavers. In Mannings case, the joint involved was the ankle.
The most common reasons a surgeon performs an ankle arthroscopy is to remove scar tissue -- a procedure called a debridement. Scar tissue forms from a variety of reasons -- most surrounding trauma to the ankle after sprains. Scar tissue can be in the form of thick bands inside the ankle that interfere with motion and cause pain.
Other reasons patients undergo ankle arthroscopy is to treat bone cysts and simple cartilage problems. Bone spurs can also be removed arthroscopically and in some occasions loose ligaments can be tightened.
The main benefit of performing arthroscopic surgery is that it is mildly invasive when compared to procedures where the joint is fully opened up.
What has been released with regard to Manning is that he had a "debridement" but what was not clear if he had scar tissue debridement alone or required bone debridement and/or ligament tightening.
A High Ankle Sprain: The Underlying Cause.
It seems that the underlying injury that prompted the ankle arthroscopy was a high ankle sprain. Its important to know that high ankle sprain is different than a regular (low) ankle sprain.
The ankle is made up three bones -- two leg bones (tibia and fibula) and one foot bone (talus). There are ligaments that hold the ankle stable on the inside and outside. The ligaments on the outside that are more commonly injured with typical "low" ankle sprains. A high ankle sprain has the characteristics of a "low" ankle sprain, but also involve a thick strong band that holds the leg bones together -- which is a more serious injury, also called a syndesmotic injury.
Acute high ankle sprain can vary in severity -- from mild to severe. Mild sprains can be treated with a period of immobilization, whereas severe injuries require more immediate surgery. The surgery for severe syndesmotic injury involves bolting the two leg bones together at the ankle -- something that was not necessary for Eli Manning when he had the injury.
Chronic ankle pain from syndesmotic injuries and ankle sprains is often caused by scar tissue within the ankle joint itself. Some people may develop instability of the ankle syndesmotic ligaments or ankle ligaments proper. Occasionally bone bruises and cysts arise that can be considered precursors to arthritis.
Prognosis After Ankle Arthroscopic Debridement
Depending on the indications for arthroscopic ankle surgery the prognosis varies. Removing scar tissue, the most common reason for ankle arthroscopy, often holds an excellent prognosis. Once the scar tissue is removed and the joint is rehabbed, patients can return to pre-surgery levels. This seems like Mannings situation.
However, if the high ankle sprain resulted in more damage to the strong ligaments between the leg bones then the recovery is less predictable. This is usually the case with severe syndesmotic injuries that require surgery immediately -- again not the case with Manning.
Its unclear if Manning was dealing with any instability issues. If he was, this may have been addressed in his arthroscopy, but severe cases of instability require more advanced procedures.
So, based on the information released, it may be a bit early to call it quits for Manning...
~~ Dr. Neal Blitz New York City
To learn more about Dr. Blitz, and bunion surgery NYC, please visit bunionsurgeryny.com.
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Arianna Huffington: Congrats, Graduates: Now Go Out There And Redefine Success 2014-04-17
We're coming up on one of my favorite times of the year: that time, just after spring breaks out but before summer begins, in which thousands of college graduates are released into the world. And as they go forth we give them advice, lots of advice. The advice varies, sometimes conflicts, but the general idea is: Here is what you need to know in order to succeed in the world. I've given a few of these speeches myself. Indeed, Thrive grew out of a commencement speech I gave last year at Smith College.
This year my book tour is taking me to a lot of colleges, and my first piece of advice is to start by defining success for yourself -- by being clear about what you want, what you value and what you are about. But before we can do that, we need to clear away the noise of the world to be able to truly listen to ourselves. And to do that, we need to abandon, or at least mitigate, some of the worst practices of the adult world that students are already mired in: burnout, sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety. And from that place of greater wisdom and perspective, graduates will be infinitely more effective at all the things they want to master: overcoming fears, taking risks, improving confidence, networking effectively, getting the job they want, getting a higher salary, etc.
This is all the more important because this generation is starting out their adult lives burdened with multiple deficits. To take the most obvious one, the total amount of student loan debt is now $1.2 trillion (greater than the total amount of credit card debt).
Graduating with this kind of burden would be overwhelming even if today's graduates were entering a robust job market, but of course they are not. Indeed, the effective unemployment rate (which factors in those who have given up looking for jobs) for those aged 18 to 29 is nearly 16 percent. For African Americans in that age bracket, it's nearly 24 percent.
It's no wonder that 14 percent of 24- to 34-year-olds are still living with their parents. It's not just because they can't find a job; half of those living with Mom and Dad are employed full-time.
Of course, thriving is about more than just financial and professional success. And there are few signposts for those in college encouraging a culture of well-being and taking care of our human capital.
Among those 18 to 29 years old, nearly half don't get the amount of sleep they need. We know that lack of sleep increases stress, but then stress also makes it hard to sleep. And according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, stress keeps 68 percent of students up at night.
"I sleep only three hours a night, and I can't keep doing it," a student told me at the Harvard School of Public Health last week. "And you are telling me something I had known all along: that it is OK to sleep, that it is OK to give time for the little things in life."
It's a vicious cycle that has made millennials our most stressed demographic, according to the American Psychological Association. And nearly 40 percent of millennials reported their stress increasing in the year before this 2012 study. But only 17 percent said they get "a lot or a great deal" of help in dealing with their stress.
We hear a lot about the dangers of binge drinking on campus (and rightly so), but much less about the effects of stress and sleep deprivation among students -- including the connection between stress and binge drinking and depression. But the evidence is all too visible. Today 44 percent of American college students say they've had symptoms of depression. And a 2011 study from the American College Health Association found that around 30 percent felt "so depressed that it was difficult to function" at some point in the previous year.
And the trend line is going in the wrong direction. According to a study in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, the number of college students suffering from depression doubled between 1988 and 2003. Screening for Mental Health found that from 2005 to 2010, depression grew in 18- to 25-year-olds by 17 percent.
Even worse, the likelihood of suicidal thoughts tripled from 1988 to 2003. In fact, we lose more than 1,000 college students to suicide every year, making suicide the second leading cause of death among college students, after accidents (including car accidents and drug overdoses).
These numbers reflect a wider, and very troubling, phenomenon in our culture. Since 1988 the use of antidepressants has gone up almost 400 percent, and they are now the most frequently taken drug by those 18 to 44 years old. More troubling is that between 1993 and 2005 the use of prescription stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall went up 93 percent among college students, while the use of prescription opioids like Vicodin and Oxycontin jumped a staggering 343 percent.
As any parent knows, what our children see us do has a much bigger impact on them than what we tell them to do. So if the lesson we're teaching them by how we live is that burnout, stress and sleep deprivation are the highway to success -- consequences be damned -- it appears that our college students are dutifully, and dangerously, following in our footsteps.
The good news is that the changes we are seeing in our workplaces -- adopting meditation, yoga and other stress-reduction practices -- are also beginning to be introduced into college life. According to a 2013 study by Robert Youmans of George Mason University and Jared Ramsberg, a graduate student at the University of Illinois, the side-effect-free way to get better grades is to meditate. Testing a random grouping of students, they found that students who meditated before a lecture scored higher on a quiz afterward than those who didn't.
Youmans, a practicing Buddhist, makes it clear that other forms of quiet and contemplation are as effective as meditation. "Basically," he says, "becoming just a little bit more mindful about yourself and your place in the world might have a very important, practical benefit -- in this case, doing better in college."
A study by researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that a two-week mindfulness training course boosted the working memory of students enough to translate into a 16-percent increase on the GRE (the standardized test required for most graduate schools). "We found reduced mind-wandering in every way we measured it and improved performance on both reading comprehension and working memory capacity," said professor Michael Mrazek. The researchers are now extending the studies to K-12 students.
In fact, Andrew Jones, a sociology teacher in the UK, wrote in The Guardian that studies have also found that meditation can lower the incidence of aggression in adolescents and children. Jones' own school has initiated quiet times during the day, which allow the students to meditate or simply reflect, and has even launched a lunchtime Zen club.
Back here at home, meditation resulted in higher English scores, higher attendance rates and higher rates of happiness in schools that introduced it in San Francisco, while in New Haven schools used meditation and yoga to reduce stress levels.
And there are an increasing number of organizations devoted to studying and implementing mindfulness programs. For example, MindUp, a program that's part of the Goldie Hawn Foundation, brings neuroscientists, education professionals and mindfulness experts together to help students "learn to self-regulate behavior and mindfully engage in focused concentration required for academic success." And a study at Johns Hopkins University found that the effects of meditation were actually about equal to those of antidepressants.
It's clear that we don't only need to change our workplace; we need to change how we prepare the next generation to enter that workplace. And thanks largely to research by our universities, we know what works. Now it's a matter of putting it into action.
Last week Nicholas Kristof wrote about Marina Keegan, whose first book, The Opposite of Loneliness, was recently published posthumously. Marina was tragically killed in a car crash days after graduating from Yale in 2012. In one of the essays in the book, she laments a transition she saw in her fellow students, from youthful idealism to an acceptance of "success"-driven practicality.
"Students here have passion," she wrote. "Passion for public service and education policy and painting and engineering and entrepreneurialism. Standing outside a freshman dorm, I couldn't find a single student aspiring to be a banker -- but at commencement this May, there's a 50 percent chance I'll be sitting next to one. This strikes me as incredibly sad."
There is nothing wrong with being a banker in itself; Keegan's point was that so many graduates choose professions based on the lure of jobs that fit our traditional notion of success. "Perhaps there won't be fancy popcorn at some other job," wrote Keegan, "but it's about time we started popping it for ourselves."
And for those who do create their own path, and for those who don't, my final bit of wisdom is that the one absolutely certain thing you can expect is that things won't turn out the way you expect. As John Lennon sang, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
I recently came across a remarkable and moving speech given last year by Kathleen Donegan, an English professor at Berkeley. She was tasked with talking about how female academics find life/work balance. She began by noting that when women talk about balance, they often use the practical language of accounting, even making to-do lists complete with charts and columns. "It's not that I don't live by lists and charts and calendars, because I do," she said. "But tonight I want to talk about what might happen if one loses confidence in the accounting and the balance sheets."
She then related a quotation by Eudora Welty that deeply impacted her and guided her desire to be a writer. "Writing fiction," said Welty, "has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, to find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists."
Donegan had charted a clear line for her own story, how she would have three children in graduate school and how they would be scheduled to fit into the timetable of her studies. It didn't work out that way. "In my experience, being willing -- or being forced -- to let go of the story you're following is what brings you closer to that line," she said. "One day after my son Leo was born, he died." She was forced to let go of her charts and calculations and connect with deeper truths.
The ability to accept life's inevitable twists and turns, losses, defeats and surprises plays a profound role in how resilient we are and how we thrive. And to harken back to freshman philosophy class, true happiness can only be found in our own attitudes and inner life, which the outside world cannot control or take away. This is not about indifference or resignation but, rather, a concept very much on the minds of young graduates: freedom. As one of the most famous Stoics, Seneca, said, "once we have driven away all that excites or affrights us, there ensues unbroken tranquility and enduring freedom." So as our new graduates go into this next phase in their lives, I hope they find the freedom to realize their own story in their own way.
Evelyn Lauer: Why Life In Your 30s Is Better (and Worse) Than In Your 20s 2014-04-17
Recently, one of my friends (actually, an ex-boyfriend) said, "I was just telling someone life gets so much better in your 30s."
He was right. And wrong.
It gets better: more simple, more meaningful, more established, more fulfilling, more STABLE. You'll have fewer fights, cry less tears and make fewer bad decisions.
But you'll also have less fun. Here's the best way I can put it: Life will feel less magical. (Probably because it becomes more predictable and less spur-of-the-moment).
When I was 20, I skipped Friday classes and spent a three-day weekend on the road with one of my favorite rock bands. I cannot write that same sentence about my 30s: "When I was 36, I skipped work, got fired and forgot to pick up my kids from daycare," sounds like the first line of a bad memoir. Your responsibilities change. Big time.
If you wait until your 30s to have children, you'll start to realize the special quality of life in your 20s -- the independence and craziness.
Having kids is amazing, but you will have to give up a lot. Movies, for one. Sleep. Taking a shower (when you have a newborn). If your 20s are like mine, you'll be a world traveler. This hasn't completely stopped, but it's definitely slowed down.
What will be more established, hopefully: your career, your friends, your life partner, your family, your home (mortgage).
You will have everything you dreamed of those nights coming home from a bar when no one asked for your number, crying yourself to sleep because you felt so alone. In fact, you will never feel alone -- and what you once prayed for will feel like a curse and a blessing.
Most days, you will go about the machine of life -- alarm, kids, shower, kids, breakfast (maybe), coffee (definitely), kids, door, car, road rage, kids singing "Wheels on the Bus," daycare, work, work, lunch (at your desk), work, kids, car, road rage, home, kids, dinner, bath time, bedtime, TV, glass of wine (much-needed), sleep (interrupted by to-do-list, kid crying, partner snoring, etc.) -- and you will not even notice that life is passing by so fast that somehow suddenly you're 38 and you're not really 30 anymore.
But other days, you'll reflect. You'll think back to those college days, the days before kids, the days you slept until noon and spent the afternoon at bars watching football, day-drinking and wasting time. No-agenda days. Days you could do whatever you wanted even if that meant Ryan Reynolds' movie marathons.
Most of all, you'll want that time back to do something productive, like write a novel. Those days will seem long-gone -- and lovely. And, if you're lucky, you'll occasionally be gifted (by your partner who will take the kids) a few days like this in your 30s -- but, after a few hours of freedom, you'll feel alone again, you'll think of your child's laugh, and you'll wonder what it was you really missed.
So which is better? Your 20s or your 30s? Discuss.
This post originally appeared on Evelyn's blog, First Page Last. Follow Evelyn on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Thomas E. Perez: Investing In Skills To Build A Secure Middle Class 2014-04-17
In today's economy, access to training for in-demand jobs can help American workers punch their tickets to the middle class, and it can help American businesses continue to grow. However, as our economy continues to expand, too many businesses can't find the skilled workers they need, and too many people don't know how to access training that can help them find good jobs.
The good news is that we have an invaluable resource that can help deliver the world-class job training that prepares workers for the jobs that need to be filled: our community college system. Community colleges provide higher education where people live, helping to build strong ladders of opportunity that allow people to secure a foothold in the middle class.
That's why President Obama and Vice President Biden went to the Community College of Allegheny County outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., this week to announce the fourth and final round of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program, known as TAACCCT.
From the outset, the Obama administration has recognized that building a robust skills infrastructure means building strong partnerships with community colleges. Since 2011, the U.S. Labor Department has invested nearly $1.5 billion through the TAACCCT program to strengthen the links between community colleges, employers, and the public workforce system to create pipelines of skilled workers. These regional partnerships are essential to growing the economy, strengthening the workforce and creating opportunity in the 21st century.
The Community College of Allegheny County was part of a statewide consortium that received $20 million in the first round of funding to expand training in advanced manufacturing, energy distribution and healthcare technology. To date, more than 2,200 students have enrolled in the school's training programs, which is one of more than 800 colleges across the country that have received funding.
The department is now making an additional $450 million available to help community colleges expand their capacity to train workers for 21st-century jobs. The funding will make sure adult learners are getting the credentials and the certifications that will allow them to move into jobs that actually exist in their communities. Community colleges across the country can apply for funding, and every state will receive at least $2.25 million for community college career training programs.
In this fourth round of funding, we are focusing on expanding best practices from previous rounds −- scaling up what works in local areas to state-wide partnerships. We're also focused on expanding partnerships with national industry groups, ensuring that education and training pathways can build on each other, and improving statewide employment and education data integration. Grant applicants that address these priorities may be eligible for additional funding.
TAACCCT is making a profound difference in people's lives. Since I started in this job, I've had the chance to visit a handful of colleges around the country and meet some amazing people like Ken Dover, Gary Pollard and Sheri Dron who are using these innovative training programs to build a better future for themselves. I can't wait to see what this next round will bring.
Join the conversation about job training using the hashtag #FindYourPath.