February 23, 2018 in 5,417 words

Democracy destroyer

For years, media outlets desperately chased the clicks promised by Facebook; now that decision threatens to destroy them

As with any toxic relationship, the possibility of a breakup sparks feelings of terror — and maybe a little bit of relief.

That’s the spot that Facebook has put much of the news business in. Last month, the social media behemoth announced it would once again alter its News Feed algorithm to show users even more posts from their friends and family, and a lot fewer from media outlets.

The move isn’t all that surprising. Ever since the 2016 U.S. election, Facebook’s been under siege for creating a habitat where fake news stories flourished. Their executives were dragged before Congress last year to testify about how they sold ads to Russians who wanted to influence the election, and so, in some ways, it’s simply easier for them to get out of the news business altogether.

But for the many news outlets that have come to rely on Facebook funneling readers to their sites, the impact of a separation sounds catastrophic. “The End of the Social News Era?” a New York Times headline asked. “Facebook is breaking up with news,” an ad for the new BuzzFeed app proclaimed. When a giant like Facebook takes a step — until recently, the social media site had been sending more traffic to news outlets than Google — the resulting quake can cause an entire industry to crumble.

Consumers, meanwhile, have grimaced as their favorite media outlets have stooped to sensational headlines to lure Facebook’s web traffic. They’ve become disillusioned by the flood of hoaxes and conspiracy theories that have run rampant on the site.

Russian bots are on the march, taking over democracy. Take cover, quick!

Pundits and Democrats ascribe to a handful of bargain-basement Russian trolls all manner of ability – including orchestrating a coup d’etat.

‘American pundits have gone from zero to 60 on this matter in no time at all – from ignoring the Facebook posts to outright hysteria over them.’

The grand total for all political ad spending in the 2016 election cycle, according to Advertising Age, was $9.8bn. The ads allegedly produced by inmates of a Russian troll farm, which have made up this week’s ration of horror and panic in the halls of the American punditburo, cost about $100,000 to place on Facebook.

A few months ago, when I first described those Russian ads in this space, I invited readers to laugh at them. They were “low-budget stuff, ugly, loud and stupid”, I wrote. They interested me because they cast the paranoid right, instead of the left, as dupes of a foreign power. And yet, I wrote, the American commentariat had largely overlooked them.

Now that Robert Mueller’s office has indicted the Russian actors who are allegedly behind the ads, however, all that has changed. American pundits have gone from zero to 60 on this matter in no time at all – from ignoring the Facebook posts to outright hysteria over them.

What the Russian trolls allegedly did was “an act of war … a sneak attack using 21st-century methods”, wrote the columnist Karen Tumulty. “Our democracy is in serious danger,” declared America’s star thought-leader Thomas Friedman on Sunday, raging against the weakling Trump for not getting tough with these trolls and their sponsors. “Protecting our democracy obviously concerns Trump not at all,” agreed columnist Eugene Robinson on Tuesday.

The ads themselves are now thought to have been the product of highly advanced political intelligence. So effective were the troll-works, wrote Robert Kuttner on Monday, that we can say Trump “literally became president in a Russia-sponsored coup d’etat”.

The science of conspiracies: Where Flat Earth meets Pizzagate

“Fake news” was rampant throughout the 2016 election — and it’s still around. But it’s hardly new: people have believed in conspiracy theories for ages, and scientists are no stranger to combating them.

The bottom line: From anti-vaccine conspiracies to climate change denial to those who believe in modern “fake news,” many conspiracy theories are united by one idea: “Nothing is an accident. They never accept randomness,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist at the University of Bristol who studies climate change denial.

What’s happening: Fake news, conspiracy theories and denial of science were the focus of many talks at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences in Austin this weekend.

Who the believers are: Conspiracy theories are not inherently partisan, and neither are anti-science ideas. Liberals and conservatives believe falsehoods about genetically modified organisms, and believe that vaccines cause autism. But some conspiracy theories are distinctly partisan.

Who is susceptible: everyone. Researchers have shown that exposure to conspiracy theories, even ones you don’t believe, can impact your worldview.

Flat Earth: Perhaps one of the best-known conspiracy theories is that the earth is flat.

Why Can Everyone Spot Fake News But The Tech Companies?

And beyond that, why is it — after multiple national tragedies politicized by hoaxes and misinformation — that such a question even needs to be asked?

In the first hours after last October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, my colleague Ryan Broderick noticed something peculiar: Google search queries for a man initially (and falsely) identified as a victim of the shooting were returning Google News links to hoaxes created on 4chan, a notorious message board whose members were working openly to politicize the tragedy. Two hours later, he found posts going viral on Facebook falsely claiming the shooter was a member of the self-described “antifa.” An hour or so after that, a cursory YouTube search returned a handful of similarly minded conspiracy videos — all of them claiming crisis actors were posing as shooting victims to gain political points. Each time, Broderick tweeted his findings.

Over the next two days, journalists and misinformation researchers uncovered and tweeted still more examples of fake news and conspiracy theories propagating in the aftermath of the tragedy. The New York Times’ John Herrman found pages of conspiratorial YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands of views, many of them highly ranked in search returns. Cale Weissman at Fast Company noticed that Facebook’s crisis response page was surfacing news stories from alt-right blogs and sites like End Time Headlines rife with false information. I tracked how YouTube’s recommendation engine allows users to stumble down an algorithm-powered conspiracy video rabbit hole. In each instance, the journalists reported their findings to the platforms. And in each instance, the platforms apologized, claimed they were unaware of the content, promised to improve, and removed it.

This cycle — of journalists, researchers, and others spotting — with the simplest of search queries — hoaxes and fake news long before the platforms themselves repeats itself after every major mass shooting and tragedy. Just a few hours after news broke of the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Justin Hendrix, a researcher and executive director of NYC Media Lab spotted search results inside Google’s “Popular on Twitter” widget rife with misinformation. Shortly after an Amtrak train crash involving GOP lawmakers in January, the Daily Beast’s Ben Collins quickly checked Facebook and discovered a trove of conspiracy theories inside Facebook’s trending news section, which is prominently positioned to be seen by millions of users.

By the time the Parkland school shooting occurred, the platforms had apologized for missteps during a national breaking news event three times in four months, in each instance promising to do better. But in their next opportunity to do better, again they failed. In the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, journalists and researchers on Twitter were the first to spot dozens of hoaxes, trolls impersonating journalists, and viral Facebook posts and top “trending” YouTube posts smearing the victims and claiming they were crisis actors. In each instance, these individuals surfaced this content — most of which is a clear violation of the platforms’ rules — well before YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The New York Times’ Kevin Roose summed up the dynamic recently on Twitter noting, “Half the job of being a tech reporter in 2018 is doing pro bono content moderation for giant companies.”

How Guns Have Destroyed American Idealism

Boris Yaro’s photograph of Robert F. Kennedy lying wounded on the floor immediately after the shooting

Perhaps there is no coincidence that in the same week that the Department of Justice confirmed Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, seventeen young Americans were gunned down by a troubled young man who had easy access to a military-style rifle.

The people who cry the loudest about protecting themselves from the government through possession of their guns look the other way when a politician and his son engage in what many think is treasonous activity with the Russians. So long as that politician pledges to save their guns—and explain away every mass shooting—these NRA fanatics care little about the rancid attack on our democratic system of government.

But the corrosive effect of guns on our democracy has a long and sickening history. Guns have destroyed American idealism.

Fifty years ago, a man murdered one of our greatest sons with a high-powered rifle in Memphis. In so many ways, Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream died with him. Dr. King was thirty-nine years old. It is hard to comprehend how much he accomplished in his short life, but even harder to grasp how much we lost when that one bullet transected his spinal cord and left him prostate on a hotel balcony. We cannot begin to measure the loss.

When he was gunned down, Dr. King was planning his Poor People’s Campaign. Conceived as a modern day camp-in much like the Bonus Army assemblage of World War I veterans who descended on Washington, D. C., in the summer of 1932 to demand cash payment of their service certificates, Dr. King envisioned a march originating out of the South of legions of poor people who would stay in the nation’s capital until Congress passed antipoverty legislation.

Dear America, here’s how other countries stop mass shootings


Trust your kids.

Yesterday, Donald Trump met with a group of students, teachers, and parents to discuss last week’s school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida and the uniquely American epidemic of school shootings. Referring to the shootings, Trump asked his guests, “Does anyone have any ideas for how to stop it?”

The White House’s selected guests suggested a variety of areas to troubleshoot: Mental illness, bullying, FBI negligence, gun-free zones (which the president has publicly blamed for attracting “maniacs”), censorship, partisanship, lack of relatedness, obsession with identity, lack of expert “consultants,” lack of safety training for students, and even the absence of armed, undercover police in schools. But as 18-year-old Parkland survivor Sam Zeif pointed out, one well-known idea has already been consistently proven to stop mass shootings: Stricter gun laws.

Research shows that countries with fewer guns have lower homicide rates. Even US states with fewer guns have fewer homicides; in a landmark 2002 study, analysis of data from 1988 to 1997 showed that states with “high” gun ownership had three times the rate of homicide than states with few guns. A decade later, a 2013 study found that every percentage point increase in gun ownership corresponded to a 0.9% higher risk of gun homicide. Countries and states that legally limit overall gun ownership simply have fewer gun deaths.

Of course, mass shootings do occur in other countries. Germany, China, Russia, Switzerland have all suffered mass shootings in recent years. Unlike the US legislature, German and Swiss lawmakers responded to massacres by changing the law to prevent such shootings from happening again.

Meet the British expat CEO of the firm behind the gun that brought tragedy to Florida

James Debney is a member of the NRA’s Golden Ring of Freedom for donating over $1m to fight against gun control.

James Debney knew next to nothing about guns when he took the reins at American Outdoor Brands, formerly Smith & Wesson.

As CEO of America’s second-largest gun manufacturer, James Debney – whose company made the assault rifle used last week to kill 17 people at a high school in Florida – makes $5.3m a year.

A second-amendment proselytizer Debney of American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson), has repeatedly made donations to political action committees opposing gun control in the United States.

And as a top donor to the National Rifle Association (NRA), Debney wears a distinctive gold blazer with a crest designating his membership in the group’s elite Golden Ring of Freedom society, reserved for million-dollar backers.

But that jacket is something of a strange fit, for a British expat with a background in bin liners.

Debney read chemistry at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in 1989, took a business degree at the Keele University and cut his teeth in consumer goods as a former managing director of Baco consumer products and then president of Presto products, a $500m plastics business.

By his own admission, Debney knew next to nothing about guns when he took the reins at the US gunmaker, which did $900m in sales last year. “It takes a while to understand the business, especially if you’re British and have a limited knowledge of firearms to begin with,” Debney told the regional business publication BusinessWest in 2012.

Judging by the performance of his company in the last two years, the learning curve may not have been particularly steep.

Their daughters were held at the border – then the blackmail from fake Ice agents began

In recent months, families with relatives in detention have been extorted by scammers demanding cash to stop their loved ones being deported.

The scammers have cited inexplicably specific details about their targets, making it very difficult not to trust what they say.

Leonel almost missed the first call.

On 17 October last year, the Long Island construction laborer was at work when he felt his cellphone buzz in the pocket of his jeans. Ordinarily, he doesn’t answer on the job, but he hoped the call might have something to do with his 21-year-old daughter, Cynthia, whom he hadn’t seen in over four years.

He hurried outside on to a deck to get away from the noise.

Six days earlier, federal agents with US Customs and Border Protection had detained Cynthia and her three year-old son as they crossed the Rio Grande into the United States – the culmination of a 1,500 mile journey that began in rural Honduras.

Leonel knew that Cynthia and her son had been transferred to the South Texas Residential Family Center – one of three facilities in the country that detain undocumented women and children – but did not yet know when, or if, they would be released.

He was desperate for news. Back in Honduras, gang members had shot his father in an attempt to steal money from the local water board, which he helped to manage. Cynthia witnessed the crime, and with the gang now threatening to kill her, too, she was forced to join the stream of hundreds of thousands of people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – the so-called Northern Triangle – who each year flee what the United Nations has deemed an “extraordinary epidemic of violence”.

6 Famous Things That Only Exist Thanks To Laziness

In an industry where everything seems focus-grouped and workshopped to death, it’s important to acknowledge those who still believe in creative inspiration, individual brilliance, and sheer hard work. That’s what we should celebrate, those admirable qualities we deem responsible for our best art. Oh, not in this article, though.

No, this one’s about how some of the greatest moments in pop culture history were made because no one wanted to try harder. Moments like …

6. Kryptonite Was Used So Superman’s Voice Actor Could Get Some Days Off

Superman famously has only one weakness, unless whoever’s writing him that day needs him to have another, in which case he has that too. (That’s comic books, deal with it.)

But it’s the first weakness, kryptonite, that became famous enough to become almost synonymous with “weakness.” And you can see why it’d be a necessary element to Superman. Tales of an all-powerful demigod punching criminals in the neck would have gotten old fast if there was never any risk to the guy. There had to be at least one weakness. It was probably there from the start.

Except it wasn’t there from the start. It wasn’t even invented in the comics! Kryptonite debuted in the 1940s Superman radio show, and it only became a recurring plot element so they could do entire episodes during which the main character doesn’t utter a single word:

You see, at one point in 1945, the actor who played Supes, Bud Collyer, decided it would be nice to get some days off from speaking in a baritone voice. Because this was all before it was really possible to record high-quality audio in advance, they needed some solution to have the star of the show absent while still making the show.

New York’s Waldorf Astoria is now controlled by the Chinese government

Eastern Hospitality

One of the symbols of New York luxury is now in the hands of Beijing.

The Chinese government has taken control of Anbang Insurance Group, a Beijing-based conglomerate that has aggressively acquired overseas companies and properties including the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. The move highlights the complexities the US faces as more and more Chinese companies—often with opaque ownership structures—attempt to purchase stateside companies. An ostensibly private holding can, seemingly overnight, change status.

In a statement (link in Chinese) Friday (Feb. 23), the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) said it was acting to protect insurance product consumers because Anbang was in danger of insolvency. A government work group will control Anbang for one year, until Feb. 22, 2019. It’s not clear what will happen to the company’s ownership afterwards, though one possibility is a government-orchestrated sale of a stake in the company. The company’s board of directors and board of supervisors will step down and make way for members of the working group, and the company will continue to operate as normal, the regulator said. It added that Wu Xiaohui, Anbang’s chairman, is being prosecuted on suspicion of committing “economic crimes.”

The takeover means that the Waldorf Astoria, which Anbang purchased from Hilton Worldwide in October 2014 for $1.95 billion, is now directly under the Chinese government. The government move should also see properties under Strategic Hotel and Resorts, which Anbang purchased in 2016, come under the control of the working group. These include the JW Marriot Essex House in Manhattan and the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington DC, among others. Representatives for Anbang, the Waldorf Astoria, and Strategic Hotel and Resorts did not respond immediately to Quartz’s requests for comment.

POINT OF REFLECTION: It’s probably wasn’t necessary to embed a link to a Chinese-language website.

An amateur astronomer captured an impossible photo of an exploding star

Cosmic Lottery

A one in 10 million shot.

While taking a series of short-exposure photographs to test his 16-inch telescope, Argentinian amateur astronomer Victor Buso caught the image of an initial burst of light from an exploding star in a distant galaxy. It was a remarkable discovery.

The chances of such a discovery are one in 10 million—or perhaps even one in 100 million, said Melina Bersten, a professional astronomer at the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata in Argentina.

The burst of light from a supernova, called a “shock breakout,” occurs when a supersonic pressure wave from the star’s exploding core hits the gas at the star’s surface. The impact causes the gas to heat to an extremely high temperature and rapidly emit light for a fleeting moment. Until Buso’s photo, no one had captured such an image because stars explode seemingly at random.

“Professional astronomers have long been searching for such an event,” said UC Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko, who was among the international research team that conducted follow-up observations.

Buso quickly noticed the unusual burst of light in his photos and contacted an international group of astronomers. Over the next two months, both amateur and professionals jointly collected data on the explosion, called SN 2016gkg, in the spiral galaxy NGC 613. The new data provides rare insight into a star’s catastrophic demise, which was published today (Feb. 22) in Nature.

How Would People React to News That Aliens Exist?

The microscopic kind, not the scary, slimy monster type.

On the night before Halloween in 1938, a strange story crackled over radios across the United States. An announcer interrupted the evening’s regular programming for a “special bulletin,” which went on to describe an alien invasion in a field in New Jersey, complete with panicked eyewitness accounts and sounds of gunfire. The story was, of course, fake, a dramatization of The War of The Worlds, the science-fiction novel published by H. G. Wells in 1898. But not all listeners knew that. The intro to the segment was quite vague, and those who tuned in a few minutes into the show found no suggestion that what they were hearing wasn’t true.

The exact nature of the reaction of these unlucky listeners has been debated in the decades since the broadcast. Some say thousands of people dashed out of their homes and into the streets in terror, convinced the country was under attack by Martians. Others say there was no such mass panic. Regardless of the actual scale of the reaction, the event helped cement an understanding that would later be perpetuated in science-fiction television shows and films: Humans, if and when they encounter aliens, probably aren’t going to react well.

But what if the extraterrestrial life we confronted wasn’t nightmarish and intelligent, as it’s commonly depicted, but rather microscopic and clueless? Perhaps clusters of tiny organisms not unlike the earliest life-forms of Earth, long before they evolved to make Hollywood movies about little green men. How would we react then?

Speaking of extraterrestrials …

Ted Cruz is right: Homer Simpson is a Republican. Sadly, he’s also an idiot

The ultra-conservative politician has once again made himself look foolish while invoking the cartoon. But you have got to love his cultural masochism.

Lisa Simpson and Ted Cruz.

To listen to Ted Cruz discuss The Simpsons at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference is to witness a man who does not deserve The Simpsons. In what may well be the least accurate analogy of all time, Cruz said: “I think the Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson and the Republicans are, happily, the party of Homer and Bart and Maggie and Marge.”

Where to start? First, Maggie is a baby who communicates exclusively in non-verbal cues, so assigning any political affiliation to her seems presumptuous. Second, the episode The Way We Was contains a flashback of Marge burning her bra during a feminist rally at school, which suggests a core of progressive liberalism. Bart, as has been pointed out elsewhere, demonstrates all the traits of libertarianism. Homer might be Republican, but then again Homer is a man so stupid that he once caused a nuclear meltdown in a van that contained no nuclear material whatsoever. And, yes, Lisa is a Democrat. Specifically, she’s a Democrat who literally becomes president in order to fix the mess left by Donald Trump.

So, Ted Cruz is wrong. But what’s really strange is that Cruz loves The Simpsons. Honestly, try shutting the man up about The Simpsons. He tweets clips of The Simpsons when he wants to make political points. One of the many highlights of his aborted presidential campaign was a BuzzFeed video where he attempted to impersonate as many Simpsons characters as possible. He has discussed his favourite Simpsons episodes at length in public, those episodes being Round Springfield (in which Bleeding Gums Murphy dies) and Treehouse of Horror VII (in which aliens disguise themselves as Bill Clinton and Bob Dole). Honestly, the man loves The Simpsons almost as much as he loves repeatedly getting accused of being the Zodiac killer.

Leaving aside the fact that anyone who claims to enjoy Treehouse of Horror episodes cannot possibly be a true Simpsons fan – if only he had picked Cape Feare or And Maggie Makes Three or The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show – this once again demonstrates how tough it must be to be a rightwing fan of pop culture. Because, make no mistake, this is not a two-way street. Simpsons showrunner Al Jean spent hours slamming Cruz last night, while actors such as Yeardley Smith and Harry Shearer have taken potshots at him over the years.

Cruz: Dems are ‘the party of Lisa Simpson’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) compared the Democrats to know-it-all cartoon character Lisa Simpson in a Thursday appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“The Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson and Republicans are happily the party of Homer, Bart, Maggie and Marge,” Cruz said, referring to the other Simpson family members on the long-running cartoon show “The Simpsons.”

Cruz, who often mentions the television show, made the joke after his interviewer, The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech, likened the gun control debate to an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Domenech mentioned how, in one episode, Homer Simpsons cites Second Amendment protections for guns used for hunting or protection. In response, Lisa Simpson argues that the Second Amendment is a relic of earlier times.

Flippers on the Flatirons: Climber ascends Boulder landmark in scuba outfit

Rilyn VandeMerwe says: ‘Fun can be had well within the limits of safety’

On a sunny and windy January morning, a scuba diver pulled himself up with both hands from the abyss to stand on a rocky ledge overlooking Boulder.

But he wasn’t sopping wet and he wasn’t anywhere near a body of water.

Rilyn VandeMerwe, a University of Colorado senior, trod carefully in flippers at the summit of the Third Flatiron. He became the first known person to scale the landmark in full scuba gear — a wet suit, a snorkel and goggles — and a mock oxygen tank made from paper towel rolls wrapped in duct tape.

“Scuba Steve is my alternate persona,” said VandeMerwe, who turned 23 after the climb. “I’ve had this costume for a few years now and I’ve worn it on many goofy adventures, from snowboarding to slacklining and highlining in canyons.”


Beyond being a staple of any self-respecting peace officer, thanks to the popularity of things like Movember, the humble moustache has made a glorious, bristly return to the faces of men all over the world in recent years. As a result, there is an almost endless supply of moustache related products one can buy, which means it’s only a matter of time until the moustache cup once again becomes relatively commonplace.

“What’s a moustache cup”, you say? The moustache cup is a cup designed with a small lip on the inside intended to protect the drinker’s face fuzz from whatever beverage they happen to be drinking. Despite sounding like the kind of joke gift you’d get a moustachioed co-worker for secret Santa because you don’t know them that well, the moustache cup was something people took very seriously once upon a time and it’s noted that pretty much every self-respecting gentlemen in the mid-to-late Victorian England with a mouthbrow owned at least one.

If you’ve ever taken a glance at portraits from the 19th century, you’re probably aware that huge moustaches were very popular with gentlemen of the era. In fact, from 1860-1916, the British military actually required all of its soldiers to sport a moustache for the authority it imparted to the moustachioed man. Not surprisingly from this, gentlemen ultimately came up with a number of ways to make sure that their lip warmers were as gloriously trimmed and maintained as possible. One of the more popular ways to style a moustache during this time was to use wax, some men also liked to dye their moustache to give it a more vibrant appearance.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

“Rights come with responsibilities,” argues The Atlantic writer David Frum. “Understanding this principle is what distinguishes an adult from a child. Yet the gun lobby rejects this basic bargain.” In this Atlantic Argument, Frum questions the “self-indulgent permissiveness” that leads conservatives down a trail of hypocrisy.

Everyone is worried about robots stealing manufacturing jobs, but the real value (and threat) in robots may lie in whether they can become smart enough to actually think on their own.

One of the major milestones in creating human level intelligence is for machines to attain self-awareness. And Columbia University’s Creative Machines Lab may have already done it. “These robots learn overtime, to stimulate themselves in a future situation they haven’t actually experienced.” said Dr. Hod Lipson, the mechanical engineering professor leading the lab’s push to create self-aware robots.

“In other words, they don’t have to learn by doing,” Lipson told VICE News. “They can learn by thinking.”

The robotics department at UC Berkley has made similar advancements with their self-teaching robot BRETT. Using trial and error, BRETT can learn how to fold laundry, assemble LEGO blocks and fit pegs into a hole.

From a technological standpoint, these advancements are exciting, but they raise an important philosophical question: If humans create machines whose intelligence surpasses our own, will we be able to control them?

VICE’s Hamilton Morris explores how robotics and the computers that power them are poised for an extraordinary leap forward with the emergence of artificial intelligence, and how humanity can reconcile the huge risks and possibilities that will follow.

While the world watches North Korea compete in the Olympics, we binge-watched North Korean television in an effort to learn more about daily life in the hermit kingdom under Kim Jong Un.

North Korea’s Supreme Leader comes from a long line of movie buffs. His father, Kim Jong Il, was passionate about filmmaking and believed in the power of the cinema to unite his country. His movies of choice were big military dramas with messages of duty to the leader embedded in nearly every frame.

But Kim Jong Un loves the small screen. Under his rule, state media has moved away from the communist epic and into more intimate, family dramas that air every night between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., when the power goes out in Pyongyang.

To understand more about what North Koreans are watching and what the government wants them to think, we arranged a screening with Jean Lee, who became an expert in North Korean television when she worked as a journalist in Pyongyang.

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

Parents and student survivors of the Parkland school shooting call out Marco Rubio’s NRA donations at a CNN town hall, and President Trump proposes questionable gun control.

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

President Trump extemporaneously offered some logic-free theories on schools being gun-free zones.

Stephen looks to the big man upstairs if there are metal detectors at the golden gates.

This teacher is ready to give us all an education. . . in gunslinging.

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

Max is focused on his destruction.


Coors, Fox, Watergate and Trump… Oh my!

Fox News personality Geraldo Rivera recently told network host Sean Hannity that President Nixon would have survived the Watergate scandal if Fox News had been on the air at the time.

Hannity was hyperventilating on his radio show about how Trump is being persecuted by the FBI, the Justice Department and Bob Mueller. His guest, Rivera, chimed in with these intriguing remarks:

“Nixon never would have been forced to resign if you existed in your current state back in 1972, ’73, ’74. … It’s too bad for Nixon, because nobody like you existed then. I say that because I believe that our prime responsibility now is to unshackle the 45th president of the United States.”

As it turns out, the Nixon White House was attempting to create an entity such as Fox News. In 2011, Gawker uncovered a 1970 document by Nixon aides entitled “A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News.”

It was a partisan, pro-Republican news operation to be potentially paid for and run out of the White House that would counter the “censorship” of the supposedly liberal mainstream media and deliver prepackaged pro-Nixon news to local television stations. It didn’t get off the ground.

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