February 22, 2018 in 5,724 words

Crisis actors, deep state, false flag: the rise of conspiracy theory code words

Crisis actors, deep state, false flag: the rise of conspiracy theory code words
The idea that mass shooting victims and witnesses are hired performers serving a dark purpose has over the last decade migrated from the farthest margins of conspiracy media

Video above: Stop going on vacation and fix gun laws, Florida student David Hogg tells Trump.

On Tuesday on CNN, Parkland survivor David Hogg was asked by Anderson Cooper about the plethora of right wing websites and social media accounts spreading conspiracy theories about him.

In response, Hogg said: “I’m not a crisis actor. I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that.”

Those with little experience of the febrile world of conspiracy theory may not fully understand what Hogg is being accused of. But the idea that mass shooting victims and witnesses are hired performers serving a dark purpose has over the last decade migrated from the farthest margins of conspiracy media.

Thanks to a range of right wing media actors, it is now much closer to the mainstream: on Tuesday, a Florida Republican’s aide was fired after he suggested the survivors were actors.

The first thing to understand is that the “crisis actor” conspiracy theory has a slender tie to reality. Crisis actors do exist, though there is nothing underhanded about them: they are simply performers hired to play disaster victims in emergency drills or wounded combatants in military exercises. They provide a degree of realism for people practicing for real emergencies further down the line.

But in recent years, the term has been appropriated by conspiracy theorists claiming that mass shootings are staged.

What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns

They weren’t the first victims of a mass shooting the Florida radiologist had seen—but their wounds were radically different.

As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read “gunshot wound.” I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.

In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

My High School’s Tragedy Actually Led to Change

When seven of my classmates were killed, the government acted swiftly and decisively to prevent a recurrence. That’s because of one crucial difference.

Memorials honoring the students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Stories like mine always seem to begin the same way: The sky that morning was so blue—strikingly blue—and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We were teenagers, unburdened by the weight of the world beyond our small Midwestern town. Nothing bad—nothing really bad—ever happened in Fox River Grove, Illinois.

The next part of the story is the same, too: Shortly after 7 a.m., confusion, fear, and panic ripped through that crisp October morning. Five of my classmates were killed instantly and 24 injured. News helicopters hovered as those of us left grieving huddled together, fearful, shaking, and terribly confused. How could it happen? Here, where nothing happened? Who could let this happen?

It’s there, in the aftermath, that my story diverges from so many others: Where other school mass-casualty events are met with inaction, we saw a swift government response—all because of one crucial difference in the tragedy my community faced.

At first, the government backlash happened largely out of sight. We weren’t aware that it was already under way when two of the injured students later died, bringing the number of lives lost to seven. Bereft, we listened to our angriest and our saddest music, along with surreal radio-news reports. We chalked banal quotes onto the sidewalk. Nothing made sense, as if we had all been thrust on stage in an absurdist play for which we’d never auditioned.

Twitter “bot” purge causes outcry from trollerati as follower counts fall

Right-wing tweeters see thousands of followers purged for “suspicious account behavior.”

A number of “alt-right,” pro-Trump, and self-described conservative social media personalities awoke this morning to find that they had a lot fewer followers on Twitter than they had the night before. The apparent cause was the latest culling by Twitter of accounts that in some way violated the company’s terms of service, a Twitter spokesperson told Ars, including “behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse.” The sweep has some on the right accusing Twitter of politically motivated censorship.

“Twitter’s tools are apolitical, and we enforce our rules without political bias,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Ars. The accounts were targeted as part of “our ongoing work in safety,” the spokesperson said. “We also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it. That’s why some people may be experiencing suspensions or locks. This is part of our ongoing, comprehensive efforts to make Twitter safer and healthier for everyone.”

In response to the sudden culling of accounts, starting at around 1am Eastern Time today, some aligned with “alt-right” figures such as white supremacist Richard Spencer started the #TwitterLockOut and #TwitterPurge hashtags, and some resurfaced Project Veritas’ accusations that Twitter employees were deliberately censoring “right-leaning” accounts. Spencer himself claimed to have lost over 1,000 followers over a few hours overnight; Janna “Deplorable” Wilkinson, who had her own account suspended in October, claimed to have lost 3,500 followers.

Tech companies should stop pretending AI won’t destroy jobs

No matter what anyone tells you, we’re not ready for the massive societal upheavals on the way.

I took an Uber to an artificial-­intelligence conference at MIT one recent morning, and the driver asked me how long it would take for autonomous vehicles to take away his job. I told him it would happen in about 15 to 20 years. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, I’ll be retired by then,” he said.

Good thing we weren’t in China. If a driver there had asked, I would have had to tell him he’d lose his job in about 10 years—maybe 15 if he was lucky.

That might sound surprising, given that the US is, and has been, in the lead in AI research. But China is catching up—if it hasn’t already—and that rivalry, with one nation playing off the other, guarantees that AI is coming.

China will have at least a 50/50 chance of winning the race, and there are several reasons for that.

First, China has a huge army of young people coming into AI. Over the past decade, the number of AI publications by Chinese authors has doubled. Young AI engineers from Face++, a Chinese face-recognition startup, recently won first place in three computer-vision challenges—ahead of teams from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Second, China has more data than the US—way more.

‘Dirty meat’: Shocking hygiene failings discovered in US pig and chicken plants

Previously unseen government records detail ‘deeply worrying’ incidents in pork and poultry plants, raising fears of ‘dirty meat’ entering the UK under a post-Brexit trade deal.

All of the reported breaches resulted in immediate remedial action with no risk posed to consumers, according to the companies involved.

Shocking hygiene failings have been discovered in some of the US’s biggest meat plants, as a new analysis reveals that as many as 15% (one in seven) of the US population suffers from foodborne illnesses annually.

A joint investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and the Guardian found that hygiene incidents are at numbers that experts described as “deeply worrying”.

US campaigners are calling once again for the closure of a legal loophole that allows meat with salmonella to be sold in the human supply chain, and also warn about the industry’s push to speed up production in the country’s meat plants. And UK campaigners warn that the UK could be flooded with “dirty meat” if a US trade deal is signed post-Brexit.

The unpublished US- government records highlight numerous specific incidents including:

  • Diseased poultry meat that had been condemned found in containers used to hold edible food products;
  • Pig carcasses piling up on the factory floor after an equipment breakdown, leading to contamination with grease, blood and other filth;
  • Meat destined for the human food chain found riddled with faecal matter and abscesses filled with pus;
  • High-power hoses being used to clean dirty floors next to working production lines containing food products;
  • Factory floors flooded with dirty water after drains became blocked by meat parts and other debris;
  • Dirty chicken, soiled with faeces or having been dropped on the floor, being put back on to the production line after being rinsed with dilute chlorine.

All of the reported breaches resulted in immediate remedial action with no risk posed to consumers, according to the companies involved.

How Does a Euthanasia Drug Keep Ending Up in Dog Food?

Owners of very good boys and girls might be perturbed by the latest recall to make the news: 27 brands of dog food pulled from warehouses for possibly containing pentobarbital, a sedative used to euthanize both pets and people alike. As Gizmodo has already reported, the recall concerns wet and canned dog foods manufactured by the J.M. Smucker Company as far back as 2016, and includes popular brands such as Kibbles ‘N Bits and Gravy Train.

But while the recalled products probably don’t contain high enough levels of the drug to pose a danger to anyone’s precious pups, it’s the fourth pet food recall to involve pentobarbital in the last two years. And that can’t help but bring up questions of how exactly it keeps ending up in dog food, and how often it’s really happening.

In February 2017, Evanger’s Pet Food and Against the Grain each announced their own recalls, after at least five dogs became sick and one died from eating Evanger’s branded food that was found to contain pentobarbital. No reports of injury came from eating Against the Grain products, but the companies are owned by members of the same family, and their products are sometimes manufactured by Evanger. Later that April, a precautionary recall was issued by the company Party Animal, after a Texan customer provided samples of their Cocolicious brand to a testing lab, where it tested positive for pentobarbital. These products, Party Animal later alleged in a lawsuit, were also produced by Evanger, Food Safety News reported.

The latest recall also seems to have been sparked by outside testing.

The dangerous, daring work of producing ethical soap


Agnes Gendry-Hearn was both apprehensive and excited about stepping into the blacked-out Mercedes in front her. Her job as a buyer for British soap and cosmetic company Lush had taken her on all sorts of adventures. But standing with a group of notorious smugglers in Goa, India, was easily her most dramatic trip to date.

“We had no idea where we were. We had no means of getting back to anywhere. The situation was a little bit tense,” Gendry-Hearn says. She was with her colleague Simon Constantine, head perfumer and buyer, and the two of them stood out awkwardly among the Indian gang. Though the trip took place over a decade ago (in 2004), she still clearly remembers getting into the Mercedes and riding around the island for what felt like hours. They were finally taken to a huge warehouse at the end of a residential road and found what they were looking for—illegal sandalwood.

Sandalwood has long been harvested for its cosmetic and therapeutic value (it’s found in perfumes, skin-care products, and incense). But the tree, largely exported from India and Australia, takes over a decade to grow. A rapid increase in international demand resulted in sandalwood being ruthlessly cut down. In India, where it has long been illegal to cut, harvest, and sell sandalwood without getting permission from the state forest department, a clandestine trade flourished. Now, a kilogram of Indian sandalwood oil sells for around $3,000 (five times as much as silver). The rising demand has already led to annual price increases of between 20% to 25% for sandalwood worldwide.

Gendry-Hearn and Constantine were in India to investigate the dark underworld of sandalwood smuggling. The trip ended after a meeting in a hotel with a smartly dressed man she described as “the big boss.” He entered with several bodyguards, sat across from them and put his gun on the table. Gendry-Hearn wasn’t scared. “My thought was: this is brilliant, this was exactly what we wanted,” she explains. The big boss boasted that the price of sandalwood oil would never go down as he was sitting on massive reserves of wood and would restrict what was coming through. “It strengthened my understanding of what we wanted and what we didn’t want,” Gendry-Hearn says. In short, they weren’t going to get sustainable sandalwood from India.

The Myth of What’s Driving the Opioid Crisis

Doctor-prescribed painkillers are not the biggest threat.

As an addiction psychiatrist, I have watched with serious concern as the opioid crisis has escalated in the United States over the past several years, and overdose deaths have skyrocketed. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show fatalities spiraling up to about 42,000 in 2016, almost double the casualties in 2010 and more than five times the 1999 figures. The White House Council of Economic Advisers recently estimated that the opioid crisis cost the nation half a trillion dollars in 2015, based on deaths, criminal justice expenses and productivity losses. Meanwhile, foster care systems are overflowing with children whose parents can’t care for them, coroners’ offices are overwhelmed with bodies and ambulance services are straining small-town budgets. American carnage, indeed.

I have also watched a false narrative about this crisis blossom into conventional wisdom: The myth that the epidemic is driven by patients becoming addicted to doctor-prescribed opioids, or painkillers like hydrocodone (e.g., Vicodin) and oxycodone (e.g., Percocet). One oft-quoted physician refers to opioid medication as “heroin pills.” This myth is now a media staple and a plank in nationwide litigation against drugmakers. It has also prompted legislation, introduced last spring by Senators John McCain and Kirsten Gillibrand—the Opioid Addiction Prevention Act, which would impose prescriber limits because, as a news release stated, “Opioid addiction and abuse is commonly happening to those being treated for acute pain, such as a broken bone or wisdom tooth extraction.”

But this narrative misconstrues the facts. The number of prescription opioids in circulation in the United States did increase markedly from the mid-1990s to 2011, and some people became addicted through those prescriptions. But I have studied multiple surveys and reviews of the data, which show that only a minority of people who are prescribed opioids for pain become addicted to them, and those who do become addicted and who die from painkiller overdoses tend to obtain these medications from sources other than their own physicians. Within the past several years, overdose deaths are overwhelmingly attributable not to prescription opioids but to illicit fentanyl and heroin. These “street opioids” have become the engine of the opioid crisis in its current, most lethal form.

If we are to devise sound solutions to this overdose epidemic, we must understand and acknowledge this truth about its nature.

South African artists have created a playlist to try to make two-minute showers bearable

Shower Power

Tick-tock, tick-tock…

Cape Town is in the middle of a severe water crisis, triggered by its worst drought in 100 years. People are saving water in all kinds of creative ways, and trying their best to make water rationing bearable.

One of the hardest adjustments has been in a highlight of most people’s daily morning routine: the shower. Last May, city officials urged residents to keep their daily showers to under two minutes.

The shower, it turns out, is where we are most wasteful at home, losing about 10 liters of water per minute. Surveys have shown that most adults take eight minutes or so to wash up, meaning one normal shower would cause a Capetonian to blow past their daily allotment of 50 liters.

Still, two-minute showers? It was a big ask.

The city eventually recognized that a public service announcement was needed that could put a happier spin on the proposed new custom, while making it practical. In November, a new campaign co-sponsored by Cape Town and financial firm Sanlam delivered. Inspired by the impulse we all share to sing in the shower, it asked 10 of South Africa’s biggest acts to re-orchestrate their most popular songs so that they last exactly 120 seconds . The songs were then played on morning radio and TV, and made available for download on streaming platforms.

Quirky Corporate Twitter Accounts Are Not Your Friends

Remember that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that suggested you could solve police brutality with a cold refreshing soft drink? How about the recent Super Bowl commercial wherein Ram Trucks uncovered the hidden secret that a famous Martin Luther King Jr. speech was actually about buying a Ram? Both were widely mocked, which makes it seem like we don’t fall for manipulative advertising anymore. But brands have realized this, and are taking advantage of a huge blind spot to hide their sketchy practices.

Their solution is simple: Be quirky and fun. If you’re an active Twitter user, you may have noticed that the official Wendy’s account has become hugely popular by joking around, insulting other brands, and generally doing their best to act like a hip 20-something who also happens to be the faceless representative of a multinational junk food titan. For example, they got 25,000 likes and retweets for telling someone who went to McDonald’s to “get a McRefund.” It might not seem that clever at first glance, but when you consider that most fast food advertising is basically “Our burgers are cooked!” it’s practically Mark Twain.

They’ve reached the point where people tweet at them in the hopes of being insulted, because the future is far sillier than science fiction could have predicted, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. BuzzFeed recently wrote “The Person Who Runs Wendy’s Twitter Deserves A Raise Because These Tweets Are Gold.” Mashable has, ugh, “25 Wendy’s tweets that served a double shade burger in 2017.” And goddamn Fox News found them newsworthy in their hard-hitting “Wendy’s roasts McDonald’s over Black Friday Twitter mishap” expose. Wendy’s even did a successful Reddit AMA, which Thrillist declared to be “Savage AF.” It seems our bar for hard-hitting comedy these days is one massive corporation that only sees you as a sack of flesh to stuff chicken into saying something a little mean about another massive corporation that feels the same.

Wow, savage.

So brands have figured out that if you’re funny online, you’ll earn free fluff news stories (also known as ads). Even some people who spend most of their time tweeting anti-capitalist screeds will pause to appreciate Wendy’s making fun of McDonald’s. But weirdly, the Wendy’s Twitter account doesn’t have much to say about Wendy’s dodging American labor laws by getting their tomatoes from Mexican farms that systematically employ child labor, wage theft, beatings, and other abuses. It’s tricky to cram the fact that The LA Times compared the workers that Wendy’s profits from to slaves into a 280-character zinger. Although a man volunteering to take a beating that was about to be given to a woman who had the audacity to ask for a little food for her starving children is certainly “savage AF.”

Blue-sky thinking: how China’s crackdown on pollution is paying off

Clear skies above Beijing again – but some fear the problem is just being pushed elsewhere.

An image of a man wearing a gas mask by Wu Di, a Beijing-based visual artist whose work focuses on pollution in China.

The photographs on display at Wu Di’s Beijing studio imagine China and Beijing at their dystopian worst.

Naked, expectant mothers stare out from the walls, their bellies exposed but their faces hidden behind green gas masks.

Worshippers prostrate themselves around the Ming dynasty Temple of Heaven, desperately petitioning the smog-choked skies for a breath of fresh air.

But while the interior of Wu’s atelier offers a desolate panorama of China’s pollution crisis, outside, a different, brighter side to the country is, for once, on show.

Beijing’s skies, so often noxious and smoggy, are a perfect and perplexing cerulean blue.

“It’s 26 today,” said Wu, a visual artist and documentary photographer, checking his smartphone’s pollution app to confirm the uncommonly low levels of PM2.5, an airborne particulate linked to lung cancer, asthma and heart disease.

“In the past, we made money first and could only talk about the environment later. But it’s clear the government has changed its mind,” he said. “We can see everything is starting to move in the right direction.”

During the creation of the nightmarish airpocalypses portrayed in Wu’s artwork, pollution levels might have been 20 or even 30 times higher. “Beijing was like a giant airport smoking room that day. It was an epic haze,” he recalled, pointing to an image staged in October 2013 in which a girl appears to inhale oxygen through a tube connected to two heart-shaped balloons.

Times, though, appear to be changing.

The secret to weight loss isn’t a fancy DNA test or calorie calculator

A Case For Cooking

The produce section is the key to health and wellness.

In recent decades, as obesity and its associated maladies like heart disease and cancer have become a global epidemic, a cottage industry has arose to hawk supposedly clear paths for people aiming to shed excess weight. These have included dieting fads (paywall) like intense calorie counting and paleo eating that rapidly go in and out of fashion, and even DNA testing kits that promise a more precise way to build a healthy, personalized dieting regimen.

But according to new research, none of those single methods are as effective as they might purport. In a three-year, randomized study of 609 overweight adults, researchers compared weight change after participants spent 12 months on either a low-fat or low-carb diet. They then took those results and analyzed whether there was any connection to a person’s genotype pattern.

They found no significant difference between the two diets, according to the study published this week (Feb. 20) in the Journal of the American Medical Association. They also found no relationship between weight fluctuation and a participant’s DNA testing. This suggests there is no single strategy for losing weight, at least not one that works for a whole population of people—and also, that your genetic makeup isn’t going to determine the right dieting regime for you. That runs counter to many of the marketing campaigns currently in vogue in the dieting world.

As part of the study, dietitians interacted with the participants in 22 diet-specific small group sessions. Those sessions helped advise participants how to achieve the lowest fat or carbohydrate diets, by eating nutrient-dense meals that were also minimally-processed. The diets promoted eating vegetables and whole foods and never set specific numeric calorie targets for people to hit.

HBO is building the town of Sweetwater for an immersive Westworld experience at SXSW

An interactive adventure to start the second season hype.

Last year at San Diego Comic-Con, HBO hosted Westworld: The Experience, an immersive activation that let guests visit the offices of Delos, Inc., thanks to some impressive set design and the performances of many committed actors. At this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, the network is upping that ante by recreating the series’s entire town of Sweetwater. SXSW is known its lavish brand activations, but this seems like a significant step up from past experiences.

Dubbed the “Live Without Limits Weekend,” the experience will run from March 9th through the 11th, serving as part of HBO’s marketing kickoff for Westworld’s second season. Series creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are also taking part in a panel with several cast members during the SXSW festival. The new season is scheduled to premiere on April 22nd.

The two-hour activation will be spread out over two acres, with guests shuttled to the location via a “Delos shuttle” after checking in at a location in Austin. On-site, they will undergo an interview and evaluation process, similar to last year’s experience, and will receive either a black hat or a white one. At that point, they’ll be released into the re-creation of Sweetwater to explore. The location will include the show’s Coronado Hotel and Mariposa Saloon and will be populated with dozens of actors playing “hosts,” Westworld’s name for the robotic characters that roam its setting. Various clues and Easter eggs about the new season will be scattered throughout the area, and where a guest goes — or what they say to a given host — could potentially lead to new revelations.

Oh Good, Those Robodogs Are Fighting Back Against Humans Now

Yep, we’re screwed.

When the scientists over at Boston Dynamics released a video of their freaky Black Mirror robodogs, all we really had to worry about was stumbling across one who might politely open the door for us. But now it looks like there’s a reason to panic: Turns out the cybertronic pooches have learned to fight back against their human masters, the Guardian reports.

A new video from the lab gives us a look at what happens when a pesky sack of flesh gets in the way of the animatronic beasts’ quest to open a door. Armed with a hockey stick, opposable thumbs, and a leash, the SpotMini’s master is powerless to stop his ward from using its weird head-claw to barge into the next room.

Boston Dynamics said the test showed how well the robot pooch can “adjust to disturbances,” adding that “the ability to tolerate and respond automatically to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot.” Today, maybe all that means is trudging forward helplessly until its master lets it go. But who’s to say that someday soon “successful operation” will mean using its ultra-powerful head-claw to rip our eyeballs out?

Bezos-backed 10,000 Year Clock now under construction

A clock designed to run for ten millennia without human intervention is now under construction.

The 10,000 Year Clock is a project of the Long Now Foundation, a non-profit organisation that wants to make “long-term thinking more common”.

It is being built on property owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, beneath a mountain in the middle of a desert in Texas,

There is currently no completion date scheduled for the project.

The clock’s creator, American inventor Danny Hillis, first publicly shared the concept in an essay for Wired in 1995.

In it, he describes his vision of a timepiece that ticks once every year, with a century hand that moves just once every 100 years and a cuckoo that emerges every 1,000.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last Wednesday, schools and state legislatures around the country are grappling with how to protect the lives of their students.

But more than five years before a 19-year-old former student killed 17 at the Florida school, Pastor Larry Allen, a a superintendent in Albuquerque, New Mexico, took a radical approach to preparing his school for potential gun violence.

In a Season One episode of VICE on HBO, correspondent Thomas Morton visited Allen’s school, the New Life Baptist Academy, to talk to the pastor, a former cop, and his wife about the training they require students undergo.

In addition to active shooter training for every student from kindergarten through 12th grade, a group of select upperclassmen also receive tactical training, designed to help them stop a gunman. They’re called the Pastor’s Warriors.

New Life Baptist Academy’s 20 teachers also have at least five loaded handguns divvied up between them.

In the wake of last week’s tragedy, pro-gun groups like “Florida Carry,” along with public voices such as Rush Limbaugh and several Republican senators, want to pass emergency legislation to allow all public school teachers to bring concealed firearms to their classrooms for defense.

But many of those who witnessed the massacre of their friends and loved ones in Parkland think enough is enough. More guns is simply more violence, not more safety. Students even held a “lie-in” on Monday in front of the White House, where demonstrators called for tougher gun control laws to help make schools safer.

Alabama has executed 26 inmates in the last decade. What’s different about Thursday’s scheduled execution of 61-year old convicted murderer Doyle Lee Hamm, is that he has terminal cancer — a condition his lawyer contends the state has been medically treating, so it can be the one to end Hamm’s life.

“What they’re doing is a delicate balance of keeping him alive just long enough that they can be the ones who execute him, and that he doesn’t die of natural causes,” Bernard E. Harcourt, a Columbia Law School professor who has been representing Hamm pro-bono since the early 90’s, told VICE News.

Hamm, who was sentenced to death for the murder of Cullman County, Ala. motel clerk Patrick Cunningham back in 1987, has been on death row for 30 years. Since he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2014, Hamm’s lawyer has repeatedly argued that killing him via lethal injection could result in a botched execution, because his cancer treatment impaired his veins.

“[If] it’s a compromised vein, the lethal drugs don’t go into the blood system…but into your flesh causing what’s called infiltration” Harcourt said. “[It’s] an extraordinarily painful death, rather than going into your bloodstream. This is beyond ghoulish.”

The United Nations agreed and has said killing Hamm intravenously could be tantamount to torture.

But Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall rejected a request to halt Hamm’s execution in a Facebook video posted on Wednesday morning. The state of Alabama has also disputed Harcourt’s claim that Hamm is dying of cancer, and contends he is in remission.

Harcourt is set to file a last ditch motion to the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution on Thursday morning, but told VICE News he is not optimistic that Hamm won’t be killed as scheduled tomorrow night.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

After a lifetime of intestinal problems, biohacker and former NASA scientist Josiah Zayner declares war on his own body’s microbes. He checks himself into a hotel, sterilizes his body, and embarks on a DIY experiment. The goal: “To completely replace all of the bacteria that are contained within my body.” Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/ind…

As student survivors of the Parkland school shooting speak out about gun control, conservatives question the legitimacy of the Florida teens.

Michael Kosta sits down with “The Death and Life of the Great Lakes” author Dan Egan to learn how the environmental decline of the Great Lakes threatens the world’s ecosystem.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

Survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are demanding to be taken seriously, while far-right adults are devising conspiracy theories to undermine them.

Stephen takes a look at President Trump wild claims and the parting gift Obama left Trump before departing the Oval Office.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

For 2 days we have had beautiful weather we even made it to 80° F. So MAX was able to go explore the sunroom for the first time this winter. But the warm days are gone as of Thursday!


I Tried Uber’s New ‘Pool Express’ Service And Honestly, Just Take a Bus

Uber announced Wednesday that it’s rolling out a new product: Uber Pool Express, a carpooling service targeted at commuters. Uber won’t like this comparison, but honestly, just think of it as a bus stop.

When a rider selects Pool Express, the app groups them with nearby riders who are all going to destinations that are near each other. Uber then determines a “smart spot” for riders to walk to. From there, a driver picks everyone up at once and drops them off at a spot near all of their destinations. Unlike traditional Uber Pool, there’s a single pick up and drop off spot for all riders.

Uber piloted the service in San Francisco earlier this year, and now Pool Express is being rolled out in cities across the US. Uber told the Washington Post that Pool Express will be about 50 percent cheaper than Uber Pool.

How is this not a bus stop?

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?