October 1, 2018 in 2,506 words

John Oliver Exposes The Utter Hypocrisy Of Pro-Lifers On Brett Kavanaugh

The “Last Week Tonight” host also singled out one “horrifying” moment from Kavanaugh’s testimony

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.


John Oliver broke the “Last Week Tonight” format and turned the entire show into “one long recap of one very long week.”

The main topic was the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination and the sexual assault allegations against him. But what really stunned Oliver was the fact that so many on the right were willing to support Kavanaugh even if he was guilty because they believed he will help overturn Roe vs Wade and restrict abortion rights.

Oliver summed it up:

“It’s fine to appoint someone who has committed sexual assault to the Supreme Court as long as they will curtail abortion rights. It’s a stance that prioritizes human lives, as long as you think life starts at conception, stops right before a sexual assault and then starts right back up again right after that assault is over.”

Oliver played a clip of Kavanaugh getting teary-eyed while testifying about exercising with his high school friends.

“Yeah. He’s crying at the memory of lifting weights at his friend Tobin’s house,” Oliver pointed out. “I hate to say it, but I’m starting to think that men might be too emotional for the Supreme Court.”


‘There was a lot of shame’: meet the sex offender ‘who is not a sex offender

Equan Yunus was labeled a sex offender under a New York law for kidnapping a 14-year-old boy, even though no sex crime was committed – and now his case may go to the supreme court.


Equan Yunus, who is registered as a sex offender even though he did not commit a sexual crime.

It’s not the most conventional opening question, but the man I’ve come to talk to, Equan Yunus, is in a pretty unusual predicament. So I ask it anyway.

“Are we about to get arrested?”

Yunus fidgets a little in his chair. As do his two attorneys sitting beside him, Andrew Celli and David Berman. We’re gathered in their law offices in the bustling heart of Manhattan, and after a pause they admit that they have not the faintest clue as to whether or not we are in breach of New York statute.

Yunus is forbidden under pain of arrest and incarceration from ever coming within 1,000 feet of any school grounds. He is also prohibited from entering within 300 yards of places where children congregate, such as toy stores, parks, pet shops, playgrounds, skating rinks and bowling alleys.

Yunus could be standing on one side of a Manhattan block and on the other side of the building, totally unbeknownst to him, there could be a playground or skating rink that would send him to prison. So are we breaking the law just by sitting in this office?

“It’s impossible to know,” Yunus says, looking distressed. “I do my best to check. I try really hard to be conscious when I’m walking in areas with schools or parks and avoid them. But you try – it’s just impossible.”

Yunus is a sex offender. Or at least, he is a sex offender in the eyes of New York. For the past two years he has lived in the city under some of the most arduous restrictions imposed by any state in America on an individual not behind bars.


The American Dream Is Harder To Find In Some Neighborhoods


This map, a screenshot from The Opportunity Atlas, shows household income in 2014-2015 for people born between 1978 and 1983 to low-income parents. In areas that are more red, people who grew up in low-income households tended to stay low-income. In areas that are more blue, people who grew up in low-income households tend to make more money.

INTERACTIVE: Explore The Opportunity Atlas

Does the neighborhood you grow up in determine how far you move up the economic ladder?

A new online data tool being made public Monday finds a strong correlation between where people are raised and their chances of achieving the American dream.

Harvard University economist Raj Chetty has been working with a team of researchers on this tool — the first of its kind because it marries U.S. Census Bureau data with data from the Internal Revenue Service. And the findings are changing how researchers think about economic mobility.

It used to be that people born in the 1940s or ’50s were virtually guaranteed to achieve the American dream of earning more than your parents did, Chetty says. But that’s not the case anymore.

“You see that for kids turning 30 today, who were born in the mid-1980s, only 50 percent of them go on to earn more than their parents did,” Chetty says. “It’s a coin flip as to whether you are now going to achieve the American dream.”

Chetty and his colleagues worked with the Census Bureau’s Sonya Porter and Maggie Jones to create the The Opportunity Atlas, which is available to the public starting Monday.


The 5 Most Ridiculous Screw-Ups In Recent Medical History

Nobody wants to hear the words “We made a mistake” — not from your mechanic, not from the guy fixing your computer, and especially not from your doctor. But medical mistakes do happen, and there’s not really anything you can do about it. If you’re one of the unlucky ones to fall victim, pretty much the best you can hope for is that your experience makes for an entertaining story. Like these poor saps.

5. A Plastic Surgeon Recorded Mid-Surgery Rap Videos With Her Unconscious, Undressed Patients


Marketing departments have to work really hard to get those elusive millennials to buy their soda, or car, or cosmetic surgery. That’s why Atlanta-based dermatologist Dr. Windell Boutte (pronounced, we’re not joking, “boo-tay”) decided to record rap videos advertising her service to the web. That’s awkward, sure, but not illegal or anything… until she started using knocked-out patients as props.

More specifically, their (originally un-blurred) butts.

One video even showed Dr. Boutte making incisions on a patient’s backside as she performed the song “Cut It.” Shockingly, this did not produce the greatest results. The patient in the “Cut It” video (who never consented to being recorded) said the surgery left her “disfigured,” while another patient described their results as “like Freddie Krueger cut my stomach.” In one sad story, a patient who went in for some Botox and got talked into a liposuction had a cardiac arrest after eight hours of surgery without general anesthesia, ending up with permanent brain damage.

You mean your last name isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be good at a job?! Comic books have lied to us.

“Dr. Booty” had her license suspended for at least two and a half years. We’re not sure what she’ll do to get by in the meantime, but if reality TV doesn’t come knocking, there’s always politics.


‘They want us to be robots’: Whole Foods workers fear Amazon’s changes

Employees have begun to organize in an attempt to push back on changes made since Amazon acquired the company in 2017


Whole Foods employees across the US are beginning to organize to push back against Amazon’s changes to the supermarket chain.

Whole Foods staff are worried that Amazon, the grocery chain’s new owner, is trying to turn them into “robots” and are seeking to set up a union to protect their jobs.

Workers at “America’s healthiest grocery store” say management is trying to cut jobs and reduce wages as they reshape the 38-year-old grocery chain in Amazon’s image.

“No one trusts Amazon and there are fears in upper management that Amazon will clean house if sales rates aren’t hit,” said one of the founders of the Whole Worker community in an interview. Staff are reluctant to speak on the record for fear of retaliation and the company has recently started training managers to fight back against union organization.

“They’re squeezing all they can out of the workers. Amazon gives little notice whenever they make changes. When they rolled in the Amazon Prime discount, they only gave stores ten to fourteen days of notice and no extra labor to handle the extra work.”


North Korea has sent South Korea two dogs as a gesture of peace

PAWS FOR PEACE

Peace on the Korean peninsula is a lofty goal. Now, the parties at the negotiating table will have the help of two heavyweights: a pair of white North Korean Pungsan dogs that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sent South Korean president Moon Jae-in.

Pungsan dogs, which are named after a North Korean county, are known for their loyalty and cleverness. They are hunting dogs with thick, creamy white coats, pointy ears and hazel eyes.


Very good dogs.

Reuters reports that Kim proposed the idea of the canine presents during the two leaders’ mid-September summit in Pyongyang, the third of its kind this year. In a statement today (Sept. 30), Moon’s office said that the dogs crossed the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and into South Korea on Thursday. The dogs, both about one-year old, were handed over in the truce village of Panmunjom, along with dog food to “help with their adaptation,” according to The Japan Times.


A Wise Man Leaves Facebook

Kevin Systrom, a founder of Instagram, wasn’t a “team player.” That was exactly what the company needed.


Kevin Systrom, left, and Mike Krieger, Instagram’s co-founders, at Instagram’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters last June.

This week, Facebook lost an executive who, in a better and different world, might one day have taken the helm of the social networking giant.

On Monday, Kevin Systrom, as well as his longtime partner, Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, quit Facebook. While seemingly out of the blue, it was a long time coming. The reason? Their unhappiness over increasingly aggressive meddling by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, about how Instagram was run.

This might seem like business as usual in Silicon Valley. Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, when it was a wee thing, and helped it surpass a billion users. Fighting over control of tech companies is commonplace, and executive shuffles happen all the time. At Facebook alone in the last two years, the founders of WhatsApp, the messaging product, left amid disagreements over the placement of advertising. So too much of the team that founded the Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality project, as well as a conga line of other founders of start-ups the social media giant has swallowed whole. They all essentially took the money and ran (usually to luxury yachts in Fiji).

But what happened with the Instagram guys is different. A pair of extraordinarily talented entrepreneurs — who multiple sources said very much wanted to stay at Facebook, who have a gift for making great products and whose jewel-in-the-crown unit was driving the future of the entire Facebook ecosystem — had worked hard to make their creation a huge success and had remained at the company for six years already. This is not typical in tech, which is a credit to Facebook.

But then they became so irked by their boss that they up and left without any warning.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

“Saturday Night Live” took on Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony on Sept. 27, denying sexual assault allegations, in the cold open of its 44th season premiere on Sept. 30.


The president sets up his own cameras in the Oval Office to make sure nobody can betray him later on.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The President Show for making this program available on YouTube.


America Ferrera weighs in on the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and talks about using her new book to share the American stories that don’t always get told.

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


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s a cheeky little analysis of Conor McGregor before his fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov this weekend. I’ll do one for Khabib in a couple of days too.


今お気に入りの箱。The box is Maru’s present favorite.


FINALLY . . .

Escape the echo chamber

First you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network entraps you just like a cult.


Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

Current usage has blurred this crucial distinction, so let me introduce a somewhat artificial taxonomy. An ‘epistemic bubble’ is an informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission. That omission might be purposeful: we might be selectively avoiding contact with contrary views because, say, they make us uncomfortable. As social scientists tell us, we like to engage in selective exposure, seeking out information that confirms our own worldview. But that omission can also be entirely inadvertent. Even if we’re not actively trying to avoid disagreement, our Facebook friends tend to share our views and interests. When we take networks built for social reasons and start using them as our information feeds, we tend to miss out on contrary views and run into exaggerated degrees of agreement.

An ‘echo chamber’ is a social structure from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited. Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders. In their book Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (2010), Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Frank Cappella offer a groundbreaking analysis of the phenomenon. For them, an echo chamber is something like a cult. A cult isolates its members by actively alienating them from any outside sources. Those outside are actively labelled as malignant and untrustworthy. A cult member’s trust is narrowed, aimed with laser-like focus on certain insider voices.

In epistemic bubbles, other voices are not heard; in echo chambers, other voices are actively undermined. The way to break an echo chamber is not to wave “the facts” in the faces of its members. It is to attack the echo chamber at its root and repair that broken trust.


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