I like this news. A lot.
Facebook (which owns Instagram) will have a new feature for when a user searches for vaccine related content. The new feature in question pops open a window offering educational information about vaccines and will connect the user to either the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) if you are a US user and to the WHO (World Health Organization) if you are outside the US. This is all designed to tackle the rapidly spreading anti-vax movement that has single handedly brought back the measles with outbreaks in 31 states. The measles, a disease eradicated from the US in 2000! And it's back!
Thanks, anti-vaxxers! =(
Well, FB is pushing against anti-medical science with their new educational pop up windows.
Thanks, Facebook! =)
The full Facebook press release:
“We are working to tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic. We are starting by taking a series of steps:
How This Will Work
Leading global health organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have publicly identified verifiable vaccine hoaxes. If these vaccine hoaxes appear on Facebook, we will take action against them.
For example, if a group or Page admin posts this vaccine misinformation, we will exclude the entire group or Page from recommendations, reduce these groups and Pages’ distribution in News Feed and Search, and reject ads with this misinformation.
We also believe in providing people with additional context so they can decide whether to read, share, or engage in conversations about information they see on Facebook. We are exploring ways to give people more accurate information from expert organizations about vaccines at the top of results for related searches, on Pages discussing the topic, and on invitations to join groups about the topic. We will have an update on this soon.
We are fully committed to the safety of our community and will continue to expand on this work.”
I don’t know about you but I was hoping to have a relaxing weekend of BBQ, beer and games. Instead, Hurricane Dorian was upgraded to a Category 5 and absolutely devastated the Bahamas. Dorian is expected to remain Category 5 and hit parts of Florida and Georgia but meteorologists hope a wind shift will push the hurricane a bit East and the two coasts will avoid the worst of the storm.
Another mass shooting killing rampage happened, this time in West Texas. A 36 year old man was fired from his job and then, a few hours later started massacring citizens. At least 7 people were killed with another 20 wounded. It ended when police rammed the shooter’s vehicle and, as he tried to exit the stolen car, police shot him dead.
A 75 foot boat called the Conception caught fire off the coast of Southern California. At least five people have been rescued but the ship was entirely ablaze and it looks unlikely rescuers will find other survivors. Approx. 30 people, maybe more, were on board.
For thirteen weeks protestors in Hong Kong have been battle state authorities. That’s - thirteen weeks! Hong Kong is obviously a city in China but for more than a century it was a colony of the United Kingdom until 1997 when the British handed it back to China. The problem being is that Hong Kong still has a political and legal system based off British rule which is known as the Basic Law, and it guarantees freedoms that Chinse outside Hong Kong do not have. These include freedoms such as the right to a free press, free speech and the right to protest, etc.
More about Hong Kong’s Basic Law, from wikipedia:
Well, Beijing and the rest of China is pushing back against Basic Law and the citizens of Hong Kong are not having it. Hence the thirteen weeks of protests up to and including several violent clashes with police.
Finally, the Amazon rainforests continue to burn and comedian / actor Kevin Hart was seriously injured in a car accident.
Maybe next year I’ll be able to round up all sorts of heart warming stories that occurred Labor Day weekend but this year - not so much.
Hurricane Dorian has been upgraded to a Category 3 and expected to hit the Florida coast on Monday. Upon landfall it will probably pick up enough additional wind force to upgrade to a Category 4.
Florida is currently under a state of emergency and residents are preparing for the worst. These hurricanes keep coming and they seem to be more destructive and more costly. And why is that? Well, last year my co-worker wrote a strongly worded story titled “Hurricanes should blow climate deniers’ eyes, minds open.” In it he writes:
“While I wish the best to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I also hope climate change deniers affected by the hurricanes realize their denial of climate change contributed to their current situation and will contribute to worse situations in the future.
Mother Earth is doing her best to convince climate denying Americans that global warming is no hoax and that people are responsible for the increasing instances and intensity of weather disasters. She started by flooding the Gulf Coast with category-three hurricane, Harvey, which AccuWeather predicts will cost America more than Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina combined.”
His story makes compelling arguments and he links to more than a dozen reputable sources and studies. He wrote that more than one year ago and he was correct in predicting that this year the hurricanes would be much, much worse.
And they are. And now all we can do is rebuild and assist those that are in need. And we’ll probably have to do it again. And again. And again.
If you can, donate to the Red Cross.
This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.
In the last year there have been more than 74,000 fires in Brazil which is approx. 80% more fires than the previous year. Eighty percent! Now, it’s true that Brazil is a large place and fires occur. Fair enough. What’s particularly out of the ordinary is that more than 50% of those fires are happening in the Amazon Rainforest. Which is bad. Obviously, the rainforest is of huge import to local inhabitants but also is of significant import to the world as a leading supplier of fish, meat, root vegetables and fruit. And, it’s true that the rainforest does supply oxygen into the atmosphere but it’s not quite the “20% of the world’s oxygen comes from the Amazon,” as many recent new sites and celebrities claim. I’ll let National Geographic explain more about that in their recent, “Why the Amazon doesn’t really produce 20% of the world’s oxygen: Of the many important reasons to worry about the thousands of fires raging in the world’s largest rainforest, oxygen supply is not one of them.”
So … why so many fires this year?
Global warming perhaps, but it does seem that a lot of them are man made. “Slash and burn” deforestation, which is the practice of cutting down forests, drying the area out and then setting the area on fire in order to make room for … other things (but usually pastures for cattle as Brazil is one of, if not THE top exporter of beef) - is the main reason for the fires. And, as anyone with common sense and reason can tell you - sometimes even “controlled fires” get out of control. Hence the mess the Amazon is currently in.
While it’s true that wildfires happen every year, this year there have been SO many wildfires in the Amazon that the G-7 even offered to assist. The G-7 being the Group of Seven, which is the international intergovernmental economic organization consisting of the seven largest IMF-described advanced economies in the world: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
So, the G-7 has the resources to assist but, in a really dumb plot twist, Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, said he would only accept aid from the G-7 - if the President of France, Emmanuel Macron apologized to him.
“Wait. What? Apologize to him? For what?” - Was my first thought.
Well, I guess there was some social media stupidity that happened and fragile male egos were bruised. You see, on the public Facebook page of President Bolsonaro, a supporter posted a meme comparing the wives of the two men implying that the President of France was jealous that President Bolsonaro’s wife was, basically - younger and hotter, and then claimed Macron (of France) was jealous.
BUT THEN - the Bolsonaro account responded to the post with, “Hah! Don’t humiliate the guy!”
Which led President Macron (of France) to respond with:
"He had extremely disrespectful comments towards my wife. What can I tell you? It's sad. It's sad for him and for Brazilians. I think that Brazilian women are probably ashamed to read that their president has done that. I think that Brazilians, a great people, are a bit ashamed of this behavior. As I have a lot of friendship and respect for the Brazilian people, I hope that they will quickly have a president who is up to the job."
Well, to be honest - that’s a pretty fair response but … as I previously mentioned - it sounds like Brazil’s President had his fragile male ego wounded which led him to turn down G-7 aid to help his burning rainforest unless the President of France apologized!
Do you ever just kind of wish that, I don’t know … adults were in charge?
Well, guess what? There are clearly adults advising the President of Brazil because they convinced him to change his mind - Brazil WILL accept G-7 aid to combat the fires which amounts to $20 million in aid and will not do so on the condition of the President of France apologizing.
This is not the first time Macron and Bolsonaro have clashed and it probably won’t be the last, but at least this time, the good guys one. The "good guys" being, “whomever assists with the Amazon wildfires.” Let’s hope the good guys can now cut those fires down.
For those who have not heard - the Impossible Burger is restaurants (and chains) hottest trend right now! If you’re unfamiliar with the Impossible Burger allow me to fill you in. The Impossible Burger is a meat free burger made entirely of soy, potato, flavored with plant molecules with added coconut and sunflower oils to give it that meat sizzle. If you want to learn more about the science behind the Impossible Burger head over to the main site of Impossible Foods, they can explain it much better than I.
But, basically, it looks like a burger, tastes much like a burger and has just as much protein as a burger. Only, it’s not a burger and it doesn’t have an ounce of meat or use a drop of animal product. Vegetarians, vegans and even meat lovers are giving the Impossible Burger rave reviews and more and more fast food chains and restaurants are putting them on the menu.
Well, the folks over at Arby’s have gone a different route and told media the roast beef loving chain will never sell “fake meat.” A rep for Arby’s went as far as saying: “The chances we will bring plant-based menu items to our restaurants, now or in the future, are absolutely impossible.” Fair enough, their motto is “We have the meats.”
Um, okay. Of course, maybe that’s what they say today and maybe they’ll change their mind tomorrow. I mean, it does seem a bit weird to me that a restaurant chain has no interest in selling food that is extremely popular - but whatever - maybe they have their own thing happening!
And boy do they ever!
Arby’s is going to start selling carrot sticks that aren’t carrots! You read that right. The “Marrot,” as they call it, looks like a carrot but is actually made entirely out of - you guessed it - meat! The Marrot is seasoned turkey breast cut, rolled, cooked, then oven-roasted, then finished with a brulee of maple sugar to make it a bit more carrot crunchy.
Um. Okay. Sounds kind of silly to me. But I’m sure the idea of a plant based fake meat burger sounds kind of silly to others so I guess it’s all fair game.
But still, we now live in a world where you can have a plant based burger and a meat based carrot. But probably not at the same place.
The Impossible Burger is currently being served around the country in a large variety of restaurants, several chain restaurants such as White Castle, Burger King and KFC, and sold at select co-ops and supermarkets. The Marrot is currently in the planning stage but Arby’s hopes to test market it in select cities soon which means, depending on customer response, The Marrot may or may not ever be a big thing.
CNN has released a new poll about the Democratic candidates and it revealed a huge increase in Biden support and a huge drop in interest in Harris. The Biden rise does not exactly surprise me, the Harris decline surprise me a bit. But whatever. There are still something like eighteen candidates in the race, pretty soon some of them are going to be dropping like flies.
Anyway, Biden is clearly viewed as the most moderate candidate. I know there was some recent progressive pushback against his “inappropriate touching” but any common sense analysis of said videos of Biden “inappropriately touching women” revealed them to be ridiculously harmless. And in some cases the women who were on the receiving end of a Biden hug have come out and said things like, “Ummm … he’s my close friend of 40 of years. Of course it’s okay for him to hug me!”
But while it turned out to be a nonstory, I think the negative coverage of Biden dropped him in the polls a bit. And … well … I also hate to say this but his pretty bad performance in the first debate didn’t help him. But all that seems to be water under the bridge now and moderate American’s are reminding themselves how much they like Biden. Conservatives even kind of liked him in the same way that liberals kind of liked Senator McCain. That seems to be changing though as Biden is the front runner and now FOXNEWS is running attack ad after attack add on Biden’s health - which, to be honest - looks just fine.
So - does that mean Biden is about to be our new President? Well - not so fast. This all comes from a single CNN poll of 1.001 people with a sampling error of 3.7%. I know some folks are skeptical of polls but all you need to do is remind yourself is that a poll is a snapshot of voters, it is not a forecast of the future. BUT, even though it’s true that people can change their mind as in “Someone polls for Biden one day but changes their mind the following week to support Sanders,” and it’s true that this does happen. People change their minds. That being said, snapshots of voters are surprisingly accurate.
I’ll bring Scientific American into the mix of things. According to their 2004 article, “How can a poll of only 1,004 Americans represent 260 million people with only a 3 percent margin of error?” - polls have a margin of error that depends:
“... inversely on the square root of the sample size. That is, a sample of 250 will give you a 6 percent margin of error and sample of 100 will give you a 10 percent margin of error.” Okay, I think I’m following that. And by the way, that ten percent margin of error is too high and therefore makes a polling of 100 people statistically worthless. So polls with too small a sampling size are not useful.
Well, just poll more folks! Right?
Well, it sounds like that’s true - up to a certain point. While it’s true that the more people you poll the smaller your margin of error becomes. Again, from Scientific America:
“... by surveying 4,000 people, you can get the margin of error down to 1.5 percent … but that is generally a waste of time because public opinion varies enough from day to day that it is meaningless to attempt too precise an estimate.”
Okay. Fair enough. It sounds like it would take too much time to gather polling data from several thousand people because by the time you compile the data, public opinion may have significantly altered. So it sounds like polling folks in the several thousand range - isn’t worth it at all. Which is why pollsters find the sweet spot to be about “a thousand people,” which puts the margin of error at 3.7% but can be done quickly and in enough time that public opinion hasn’t changed much by the time the poll is released.
Makes sense to me.
But what about anomalies? What about human error? What about bias?
Well, Scientific American covers that too:
“The margin of error is a mathematical abstraction, and there are a number of reasons why actual errors in surveys are larger. Even with random sampling, people in the population have unequal probabilities of inclusion in the survey. For instance, if you don't have a telephone, you won't be in the survey, but if you have two phone lines, you have two chances to be included. In addition, women, whites, older people and college-educated people are more likely to participate in surveys. Polling organizations correct for these nonresponse biases by adjusting the sample to match the population, but such adjustments can never be perfect because they only correct for known biases. For example, "surly people" are less likely to respond to a survey, but we don't know how many surly people are in the population or how this would bias polling results.”
Okay. I think I got it - a poll is a snapshot of voter opinion but again - it is not an actual prediction of exactly what will happen. A 3 percent margin of error means that “there is a 95 percent chance that the survey result will be within 3 percent of the population value.”
What that means is that pollsters, much like weathermen are better at their jobs than we give them credit for. I mean we have plenty of jokes about both are wrong all the time (especially the weatherman), the opposite is true - polls (and the weatherman) for the most part - are pretty accurate.
But anomalies do exist, errors happen. I mean, polls predicting the likely outcome of the 2016 Presidential election could have one candidate ten points ahead one week, and then watch that candidate lose mainly due to Widespread Russian Interference in all 50 States which rendered all the polls meaningless - and handing the election to the other candidate.
Weird but awesome news! I am totally onboard with this idea! The petition, which was started by the nonprofit Halloween & Costume Association, has received more than ninety five thousand signatures as of Sunday afternoon (the 28th.) Technically, the petition is addressed to President Trump but since it’s not a federal holiday, the President can’t officially change the date. We the people of the United States could simply decide to change the date and celebrate on the last Saturday of October, but that would require Herculean amounts of communication to retail stores, schools and people all over the country. Which means, while I am one hundred percent onboard with changing the date - it might be easier said then done.
Regardless, it kind of seems like common sense to me. Permanently moving Halloween to a Saturday would mean that it would be easier and probably safer for kids to celebrate. It would certainly be much easier for parents to organize a weekend Halloween celebration instead of taking them out on a school night on Tuesday evening or whenever the 31st happens to fall on that particular year.
The fine folks over at Autoinsurance.org analyzed 24 years of fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians and children occurring after 4pm when Halloween falls on a weekend vs a weeknight. Their recent study, which can be found here, clearly finds that weekdays are more dangers for trick or treaters than weekends. Their study supports moving Halloween to the last Saturday in October, too!
But maybe that’s just us! The petition in full reads:
“It's time for a Safer, Longer, Stress-Free Celebration! Let's move Halloween to the last Saturday of October!
On Wednesday, July 24th, former special prosecutor Robert Mueller testified before two Congressional committees - the Judiciary in the morning, and the House Intelligence later in the afternoon. Democrats were salivating that Mueller was going to unload a heap of Trump’s impeachable crimes that had somehow been omitted from his special investigation. But basically Mueller just stuck to the script and repeated things that were already detailed in his 448 page report. So, it was really nothing new to anyone who, you know - actually read the report. (I should note that I’ve read half of it and skimmed half of it.) And Mueller pretty much testified exactly what he wrote:
Which is not even close to what the actual report said. Anyway, you know all this if you read the report. You do not know any of this if you watch Fox News. And remember as soon as the report came out and Barr delivered his four page memo to congress with the “No collusion. Total exoneration” tone a lot of Democrats were skeptical. And then Trump and Fox News said, “Mueller’s a stand up guy! He knows what he’s doing! He did his job! No collusion. Total exoneration.”
It sounds to me that the “No collusion, total exoneration” kind of stuck in Mueller’s craw and so he felt the need to clear up the general tone of his report for anyone who still thinks that it said any thing like, “No collusion. Total exoneration.”
And so Mueller said he would testify before congress. And suddenly Fox News and President Trump were like, “Mueller’s an incompetent hack! Don’t trust anything he says! He should have been fired!”
Funny how quickly folks change their mind, eh?
Anyway, Mueller went to Congress and testified. For several hours. But the additional smoking gun that Democrats were hoping for - never arrived. As mentioned he really just said the same exact things that were in his report. And Mueller refused to answer something like 200 questions - mainly about sitting A.G. Barr and the Steele dossier.
Okay. I’m not exactly sure why Mueller didn’t answer any of those questions but I guess he had his legal reasons. To be honest, the entire thing played out like Mueller was there to polish his reputation which he felt had been tarnished by Barr “mischaracterizing” his report. Mueller didn’t really give the committees anything new they couldn’t have just gotten from reading the report.
Honestly, I don’t really see what the point was. But hey, I guess it made for entertaining television for a few hours as Republicans tried to paint Mueller as a hack and Democrats fell all over themselves thanking him for being a veteran and we audience members kept hoping a smoking gun was just around the corner. Which - it wasn’t.
But still, the actual report is kind of interesting. You should read it. The only time it mentions “no collusion” is in the intro when Mueller discusses how collusion has no real legal meaning so he won’t be trying to prove “collusion.” Instead he was trying to prove coordination and conspiracy.
And it one hundred percent does not say “total exoneration.” It says the exact opposite, in fact. But I’m no longer sure that facts matter. And that’s a crying shame.
After a 67 year run, Mad magazine will cease publication and join its one time (and only real) rival publication Cracked magazine in going “the way of the dodo.” Cracked closed shop in 2007 and Mad magazine will no longer publish new content as of next month.
Of course, “no longer publish NEW content” is far from “closing permanently.” Cracked ceased publication but evolved into a highly successful website: Cracked.com. Mad magazine will cease publishing “original content” and instead will revert to publishing “new” monthly issues that contain recycled material from its previous 67 year run. Of course, the “new” issues will still have original cover artwork and it sounds as if the planned end of the year “holiday” issue will actually have new art and new content. The other kicker is that Mad magazine will no longer be widely available in, say - supermarkets or bookstores. In order to receive a copy you will have to either subscribe or visit a specialty comic book shop (Mad magazine is now owned by DC comics). So, Mad magazine is not exactly ceasing all publication as reported at the beginning of the week. I mean, at least for now.
A subscription based model that reprints recycled bits from Mad’s long history, um … miiiiiight work. But, probably not. Which is too bad because, like many, I grew up reading Mad (and Cracked) thinking that Mad host character Alfred E. Neuman and his moniker, “What, me worry” was pretty damn cool. Spy vs. Spy was my jam and Mad introduced me to artist Don Martin and all his various characters up to and especially including, The Mad Adventures of Captain Klutz (which was published in the Mad magazine paperback line of books, not the actual magazine itself).
So, it appears as if Mad is not exactly going out of print; however, it is changing to subscription only that reprints previously written material which means that it’s not exactly dead but it might as well be. I mean, if you want to publish collections of old material in a Volume 1, Volume 2 compilation, well - that’s a totally legitimate thing to do. Lot’s of comic runs do that. But, that’s not exactly what is happening here. In fact, I would say just dump the “new” monthly recycled material magazine and only publish a holiday “year in review” with all new content and all new art. Just make it a once a year magazine. Make it an event. Make it something special.
The recycled once a month model really seems to be a - we’re going out of business but, um not really. But, kind of. But we’re shutting down, but not really. But … you know … we kind of are. But we also - kind of aren’t.
Which, to be honest - is driving me a bit …. Mad. =)
A couple of shocking Wimbledon twists for tennis fans. The very well liked and number two ranked Naomi Osaka lost today 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to Yolia Putintseva (currently ranked 39). This was Putintseva’s first time at Wimbledon. (Editor’s note: Osaka has been in a recent slump and during the Wimbledon match committed 38 unforced errors, to Putintseva's seven.) But the real stunner is that young tennis prodigy Cori Gauff (ranked 313) beat five time Wimbledon champion super star Venus Williams (ranked 10) in round one of the tournament.
Gauff is fifteen years old playing in her debut tournament where she handedly defeated her tennis idol Williams 6-4 6-4. “It’s the first time I have every cried after winning a match,” Gauff told reporters after.
Wimbledon is a little different than the other three Grand Slam tennis tournaments as it is the only one played on grass, the others play on hardcourt.
The Australian Open plays on an acrylic topped hardcourt, the French Open and the US Open play on clay courts.
Why does this matter, you might ask? Well, clay courts slow down the ball and produce a high bounce in comparison to grass or hard which means it takes away any advantage of big serves. Acrylic hard courts can vary is speed but generally faster than clay courts but not as fast as grass courts.
Grass courts, according to Wikipedia:
“Grass courts are the fastest type of courts in common use. They consist of grass grown on very hard-packed soil, which adds additional variables: bounces depend on how healthy the grass is, how recently it has been mowed, and the wear and tear of recent play. Points are usually very quick where fast, low bounces keep rallies short, and the serve plays a more important role than on other surfaces. Grass courts tend to favour serve-and-volley tennis players.
Grass courts were once among the most common tennis surfaces, but are now rare due to high maintenance costs as they must be watered and mown often, and take a longer time to dry after rain than hard courts. The grass surface, however, is the most physically forgiving to the human body because of its softness.”
Wimbledon continues and wraps up mid July with the Women's final on Saturday the 13th and the Men’s final on Sunday the 14th.
Update 7/8/19: Alas, Gauff's magical journey came to an end as she just lost 6-3 6-3 in the fourth round to former world number 1 and Grand Slam winner Simona Halep.