January 11, 2019 in 2,649 words


to set a mood • • •


People older than 65 share the most fake news, a new study finds

And the finding holds true across party lines


Older Americans are disproportionately more likely to share fake news on Facebook, according to a new analysis by researchers at New York and Princeton Universities. Older users shared more fake news than younger ones regardless of education, sex, race, income, or how many links they shared. In fact, age predicted their behavior better than any other characteristic — including party affiliation.

The role of fake news in influencing voter behavior has been debated continuously since Donald Trump’s surprising victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. At least one study has found that pro-Trump fake news likely persuaded some people to vote for him over Clinton, influencing the election’s outcome. Another study found that relatively few people clicked on fake news links — but that their headlines likely traveled much further via the News Feed, making it difficult to quantify their true reach. The finding that older people are more likely to share fake news could help social media users and platforms design more effective interventions to stop them from being misled.

Today’s study, published in Science Advances, examined user behavior in the months before and after the 2016 US presidential election. In early 2016, the academics started working with research firm YouGov to assemble a panel of 3,500 people, which included both Facebook users and non-users. On November 16th, just after the election, they asked Facebook users on the panel to install an application that allowed them to share data including public profile fields, religious and political views, posts to their own timelines, and the pages that they followed. Users could opt in or out of sharing individual categories of data, and researchers did not have access to the News Feeds or data about their friends.

About 49 percent of study participants who used Facebook agreed to share their profile data. Researchers then checked links posted to their timelines against a list of web domains that have historically shared fake news, as compiled by BuzzFeed reporter Craig Silverman. Later, they checked the links against four other lists of fake news stories and domains to see whether the results would be consistent.


I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone.

T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are selling access to their customers’ location data, and that data is ending up in the hands of bounty hunters and others not authorized to possess it, letting them track most phones in the country.

Nervously, I gave a bounty hunter a phone number. He had offered to geolocate a phone for me, using a shady, overlooked service intended not for the cops, but for private individuals and businesses. Armed with just the number and a few hundred dollars, he said he could find the current location of most phones in the United States.

The bounty hunter sent the number to his own contact, who would track the phone. The contact responded with a screenshot of Google Maps, containing a blue circle indicating the phone’s current location, approximate to a few hundred metres.

Queens, New York. More specifically, the screenshot showed a location in a particular neighborhood—just a couple of blocks from where the target was. The hunter had found the phone (the target gave their consent to Motherboard to be tracked via their T-Mobile phone.)

The bounty hunter did this all without deploying a hacking tool or having any previous knowledge of the phone’s whereabouts. Instead, the tracking tool relies on real-time location data sold to bounty hunters that ultimately originated from the telcos themselves, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint, a Motherboard investigation has found. These surveillance capabilities are sometimes sold through word-of-mouth networks.

Whereas it’s common knowledge that law enforcement agencies can track phones with a warrant to service providers, IMSI catchers, or until recently via other companies that sell location data such as one called Securus, at least one company, called Microbilt, is selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from car salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters, according to sources familiar with the company’s products and company documents obtained by Motherboard. Compounding that already highly questionable business practice, this spying capability is also being resold to others on the black market who are not licensed by the company to use it, including me, seemingly without Microbilt’s knowledge.


Just 5% of Earth’s landscape is untouched

Humans have a greater influence on the world’s landscape than previously thought, according to a comprehensive new high-resolution analysis of human modification of the planet. The map, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is meant to guide conservation strategy in the coming years.

Why it matters: The new study finds that just 5% of the Earth’s land surface is currently unaffected by humans, far lower than a previous estimate of 19%.

95% of the Earth’s land surface has some indication of human modification, while 84% has multiple human impacts, the study found.


“As a conservation community we can’t just say once we’ve protected these last remaining wild places then we’re done because the vast majority of the world is not those places.”
— Christina Kennedy, study lead author and senior scientist at TNC

How they did it: The researchers from The Nature Conservancy and Conservation Science Partners used publicly available, high-resolution data from ground surveys and remotely sensed imagery on land use in 1 square kilometer grids to provide a spatial assessment of the impact of 13 human-caused stressors across all terrestrial lands, biomes and ecological regions, including:

  • Agriculture
  • The physical extent of human settlement
  • Transportation, including railroads and minor roads
  • Mining, energy production
  • Electrical infrastructure, including power lines


5 Surprising Signs That Indicate You Might Be A Psychopath

Though the headlines may seem to imply otherwise, only about 1 percent of people are actual psychopaths. And that doesn’t automatically mean they murder people; they just demonstrate a certain set of antisocial personality traits, like narcissism, sadism, and a lack of empathy. If you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds like me!” here are some unexpected traits that you might want to look out for …

Note: You can’t actually diagnose yourself via an internet comedy article, but we all know that, right?

5. You Like Bitter Drinks


Most people don’t actually like the taste of coffee — how could they? They like the taste that a little bit of coffee adds to a cup full of sugar and cream. If you or someone you know actually does like the taste of black coffee, that could be a very foreboding sign. It turns out a love for bitter beverages is a sign you might just be a psychopath.

Researchers in Austria used their dour Austrian psychology to get to the bottom of what makes someone want to hold back on adding sugar to their black cup of caffeinated acid. After doing some personality tests to suss out who demonstrated what experts call the “dark” personality traits (in particular, sadism), they drew the conclusion that there’s a weird correlation between being a psychopathic kind of person and enjoying drinks that taste like they leaked from the back of a fridge.

Why? It’s hard to know, but it may be the perception that the bitter beverage is unpleasant to others. So it’s kind of the same reason they’re into other weird shit — they naturally like pushing boundaries, vicariously enjoying other people’s discomfort. Bitterness is your tongue’s way of telling you that the thing in your mouth isn’t fit for consumption. Psychopathic personalities take that as a challenge.

It’s not just about black coffee, either. A different study found if you pull back on beers like an IPA every so often, the same thing potentially applies. All the more reason you should stick to gin and milkshakes at every meal, like a normal person.


‘A game of patience and persistence’: life in São Paulo’s internet deserts

More than 50% of people around the world now use the internet but in Brazil’s largest city, the digital haves and have-nots sometimes live just metres apart
Universal internet access unlikely until at least 2050, experts say


Luana Nunes’s home internet connection is very weak and unstable – for anything urgent, she has to roam her neighbourhood trying to pick up a signal in higher places.

For some people, getting into university is all about the grades. For Luana Nunes, it was about finding a reliable internet connection.

Nunes nearly missed out altogether on registering for the all-important high school leaving exam because she did not have web access at home, and had to go to the nearest internet cafe, 40 minutes away. “When I got there, I realised that I’d left a document at home,” she says.

Nunes lives in Barragem, on the southern outskirts of São Paulo, where large areas are internet deserts. It was not until 2018 that she finally got the option of having the internet at home.

Now 23 and a journalism student, Nunes is connected at home thanks to a local company that provides radio-based internet access. She has a modem that can just about pick up the nearby 3G signal, though it is very weak.

“It’s really unstable when it’s raining,” she says. “When it’s something urgent, I walk around the neighbourhood, trying to pick up a signal in higher places. I feel disconnected from the world, literally. It’s a game of patience and persistence.”


Great tits are killing birds and eating their brains. Climate change may be to blame.

A bird murder mystery, solved.


Don’t be fooled by the great tit’s cute appearance. It’s actually an aggressive murderer.

Every year, little black-and-white birds called pied flycatchers make the lengthy trek from sub-saharan Africa to northern Europe to feast on caterpillars, claim a nest, and have babies. This typically goes off without a hitch, and the birds return to Africa a few months later, offspring in tow. But recently, some flycatchers have arrived to find their nesting sites occupied by haughty, territorial great tits. And those birds don’t just chase flycatchers away—they brutally attack them, kill them, and eat their brains.

The reason for such grisly bird murders might be due to a shift in migration and nesting timelines for both birds, according to a new study published Thursday in Current Biology. While great tits typically breed two weeks earlier than pied flycatchers, their breeding periods now occasionally overlap due to climate change-related factors, the authors say.

Sara Keen, a behavioral ecologist at Cornell University who wasn’t involved with the new study, says she was really struck by how behavioral changes in response to climate change can manifest in a wide variety of ways, like an uptick in macabre bird murders, for instance. “It can be particularly challenging to predict how mixed species communities will be affected,” she says.

Great tits live in European forests like the Dwingelderveld and Drents Friese Wold forests in the Netherlands, where the study took place, all year round. Flycatchers, on the other hand, are merely regular vacationers. Since the 1980s, flycatcher breeding season has been inching up earlier in the month of April. Warm spring temperatures have caused caterpillar populations to boom sooner in the month, so flycatchers adapted to that and started arriving a bit earlier, too. That wouldn’t be too big a problem for flycatchers, except that great tit breeding periods are also in flux. Now, when tits delay their breeding period a little bit in colder Aprils, they overlap with the flycatchers, and violence ensues.

There’s limited nesting space in many of these birds’ favorite forests in the UK and the Netherlands—the trees can be quite young and have very few woodpeckers, so natural tree holes birds would usually nest in are few and far between. Volunteer groups and academics have installed nestboxes, basically standardized birdhouses, to help. But with climate nudging bird breeding schedules closer together, there aren’t enough nestboxes to go around, which is why flycatchers arrive to find their usual nests occupied. Ungracious hosts, the tits eat their brains.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

As Trump visits McAllen on Thursday. VICE News gets the perspectives of communities in McAllen’s sister city, Reynosa.

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


President Trump defends holes in a border wall prototype and holes in his financial plans for the Mexico-funded barrier.

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


Seth takes a closer look at President Trump traveling to Texas to make the case for his border wall as the government shutdown drags on.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.


How does Banksy actually make money? Is Banksy the graffiti artist rich or is Banksy poor?

The street artist known as Banksy belongs to what is sometimes called the “Bristol Scene,” which includes creatives from different genres, notably music. You’ve probably heard of some of the artists that are or were part of this scene, including Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky. Graffiti was also a big part of the scene, and while there were many artists around, the one you’ve all heard of is Banksy. His stenciling style is known all over the world, as are his attacks on the establishment and what he sees as human rights abuses. It’s said he was expelled from school as a kid, and took to the streets to paint on walls. No one is certain who he really is as he keeps his identity secret, although there is lots of speculation as to his real identity. But how does a disestablishment hero like Banksy actually earn a living? Welcome to this episode of the Infographics Show, How does Banksy make money?


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

Here’s me critical analysis of chameleons. Me commentary on a bunch of Christmas Fails. Have a good one!


箱に入って寝る準備をするまる。Maru gets into the box and gets ready to sleep.


まる:なんか違う。Maru: It doesn’t feel right.


FINALLY . . .

The new rules of eating al desko

Is there a right and wrong way to lunch at your desk? Should you even be doing it at all? Experts and office workers weigh in.


Lunch is served … but is it welcome?

As winter finally begins to bite, the idea of the al-desko lunch seems increasingly alluring. No one wants to take their sandwich to the park when it’s snowing, and even the walk to the local cafe can seem too much when it is through wind and rain.

But is there a right and a wrong way to eat at your desk? Should we be even doing it in the first place? We asked some experts and office workers.

Is it OK to eat al desko?

Absolutely not, says Henry Stewart, founder and “chief happiness officer” of the workplace consultancy Happy. “It’s madness. We’ve got to get people out of the hamster wheel of continual work. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for the organisation. All the research shows that people work more effectively if they take breaks.”

Stewart banned al-desko dining at Happy several years ago, not for any lofty motive but because someone – it may even have been him – spilled hot chocolate on the carpet the day they moved in. Now his team all have lunch – and afternoon ice-cream breaks – together at the cafe next door. “I thought it would last about a week,” he says, “but it’s still going and it has [had a] hugely beneficial effect. You talk to people you might not normally talk to. It increases communication and generally improves the effectiveness of an organisation.”

It’s a smart career move, adds André Spicer, professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School in London. “It’s good for job satisfaction, performance, promotion … Why? Because eating is a social ritual in which people swap information.”


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