Stephen Miller falls asleep during Trump conference on school safety

Stephen Miller nods off during Trump speech about school safety.
Image: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Between frothing about “cosmopolitans” or getting escorted out of CNN by security, it’s rare to capture Senior White House policy advisor Stephen Miller in a humanlike moment.

We take what we can. Like today for example, when Jim Lo Scalzo from EPA photos captured Miller asleep during President Trump’s wildly delusional over-an-hour-long briefing on school shootings.

I strongly encourage the Pulitzer committee or at least my mom to take a look at this person’s fine work. 

Image: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

I can correctly blame Miller for the downfall of our nation, but I can’t quite penalize him for falling asleep during Trump’s speech, which was particularly divorced from reality today.

Image: JIM LO SCALZO/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Perhaps these quotes triggered the poor snowflake into sleep.

“We lose a lot with Canada.  People don’t know it.  Canada is very smooth.  They have you believe that it’s wonderful.  And it is — for them.  Not wonderful for us; it’s wonderful for them.  So we have to start showing that we know what we’re doing.”

“So we have to confront the issue, and we have to discuss mental health, and we have to do something about it. You know, in the old days, we had mental institutions. We had a lot of them, and you could nab somebody like this. Because, you know, they did — they knew he was — something was off.  You had to know that.”

Here’s what Twitter had to say.

Of course, Miller can in no way match Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s infamous nap during the State of the Union when she got a little white wine drunk.

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23andMe gets FDA green light for cancer risk test

Genetic testing powerhouse 23andMe announced today that it’s officially received the FDA go-ahead to launch a direct-to-consumer testing kit for genes linked to various forms of cancer. The forthcoming kit, which will be made available without a prescription, tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are linked to higher risk of ovarian, break and prostate cancer.

“Being the first and only direct-to-consumer genetics company to receive FDA authorization to test for cancer risk without a prescription is a major milestone for 23andMe and for the consumer,” the company’s CEO Anne Wojcicki said in a release tied to the announcement. “We believe it’s important for consumers to have direct and affordable access to this potentially life-saving information. We will continue pioneering a path for greater access to health information, and promoting a more consumer-driven, preventative approach to health care.”

Of course, the test shouldn’t be taken as the be all, end all of cancer risk — nor is it meant as a replacement for a proper screening. As geneticist Eric Topol notes on The Verge, the three variants tested here only make up a small percentage of hundreds of known mutations. The test has the potential to provide a false sense of safety among consumers.

Topol’s warning reflects an FDA letter sent to the service back in 2013, urging 23andMe to discontinue marketing its Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service.

“Some of the uses for which PGS is intended are particularly concerning,” the FDA writes, “such as assessments for BRCA-related genetic risk and drug responses (e.g., warfarin sensitivity, clopidogrel response, and 5-fluorouracil toxicity) because of the potential health consequences that could result from false positive or false negative assessments for high-risk indications such as these.”

The three variants of the gene are found most often in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, with one in 40 people of that background carrying one. In women, the presence of one of the variants increases breast cancer risk by up to 85 percent before age 70. As the service notes, around half of BRCA carriers who offered medical history in a study don’t report cancer history among immediate relatives.

In that respect, the service could potentially raise a red flag and lead customers to get an additional screen. But, of course, the results of the test should in no way be taken as a replacement for a visit to the doctor.

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This Is What We Should Be Teaching Young Girls About Self Love And Beauty

Caroline Hernandez

But how are we supposed to teach young girls lessons we haven’t even learned ourselves?

Society puts a lot of pressure on everyone to look a certain way. It’s all a numbers game.

Size. Weight. Measurements. Beauty. Restrictions. Calorie consumption.

From an early age, we are weighed in front of our classmates during gym. We are asked for sizes in front of our teammates for uniforms. If girls aren’t judging each other they are judging themselves and social media is making every part of their life a competition.

It’s a generation recording everything on smartphones from what they eat to what workout they do needing validation and acceptance.

We are teaching girls to look at their flaws instead of their attributes striving for perfection that isn’t real.

Comparing themselves to models in magazines. Filtering every picture they post like they have to. Editing everything so heavily.

Defining happiness based on notifications.

Instagram. Facebook. Snapchat. It encourages you to judge people first by appearance or how happy they might be and what they are putting out there. But we get caught up in judging ourselves too wondering why everyone else seems happier than us hiding it and overcome with guilt.

Dating apps where adults are judging one another based on photos alone. This is what we are teaching them that it’s okay to judge people solely on what they look like instead of who they are.

It’s a competition that has only gotten worse with advances in technology.

And we wonder why there’s a higher rate of depression.

According to Business Insider,

‘After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.’

This is what we should be telling girls about self-love and actual beauty. And this is how we should be talking to ourselves.

Don’t talk about her body in regards to appearance but rather the wonderful things bodies are capable of doing. Don’t look in the mirror and talk to yourself about what you don’t like. Don’t talk about her weight in regards to what she should lose or gain. Don’t set a goal thinking that’s going to make you happy. Don’t talk to her about what she should change. Teach her as well as yourself to learn to like your flaws.

Don’t use words like skinny. Use words like beautiful and strong. Realize being healthy is what’s it’s about. It’s not about being skinny. It’s teaching her to workout not because she hates herself and wants to change but because it’s wonderful to see what your body can do and working out changes your attitude.

It’s teaching her to eat healthy because what you put into your body is important to your long-term health not just what you look like. It’s teaching her to pursue her favorite sport because there are some things teams can teach you that no one else can.

Don’t compliment her appearance but rather something unique about her. Because what makes her and what makes you beautiful has nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with how she treats people and how she makes them feel about themselves.

That’s beauty.

Being authentic is beautiful. Being kind is beautiful. Being a good person is beautiful. And those are things you can’t buy in a store.

Teach her what’s attractive about her aren’t her looks but her passion. That she isn’t limited by who she is or what she looks like. That what carries her is going to be her attitude. How she lights up talking about the things she cares about. How she does something she loves every day and as a result, she becomes good at it and people admire her for it.

We need to stop teaching girls they need to change to love themselves because she doesn’t.

If we want to teach our young girls to love and accept themselves we have to set the example of loving who we are not wanting to change.

Confidence is important. Liking the person looking back at you is essential. But I think a lot of us don’t even know how to be good enough for ourselves anymore.

How we talk to young girls is so important but how we talk to them is a reflection of how we talk and view ourselves.

So if we want to raise a generation of girls that turn into strong women set that example. Because as much as they deserve to love themselves you do too.

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Trump Tells Shooting Survivors: Solution to Your Problem Is More Guns in School

While meeting with survivors of last weeks school shooting, President Donald Trump on Wednesday endorsed the idea of preventing school shootings by having more guns on campus.

One week after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the president sat for a roundtable discussion with some survivors and their families, teachers, and parents of Sandy Hook and Columbine victims, and listened to their harrowing stories, impassioned pleas, and thoughts on how to prevent future massacres.

When Trump spoke about proposed solutions, he suggested that arming teachers in their classrooms could act as a deterrent when a gunman enters a school.

If you had a teacher with, who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly, the president said. And the good thing about a suggestion like that, and were going to be looking at it very strongly, I think a lot of people are going to be opposed to it, I think a lot of people are going to like it. But the good thing is youll have a lot of people with that.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said that there actually was an armed guard on the high school campus, but that the guard never encountered alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.

The president, appearing to reference how football coach Aaron Feis died shielding students, suggested: If the coach had a firearm in his locker he wouldnt have had to run, he would have shot [Cruz], and that would have been the end of it.

He continued: This would only obviously be for people who are very adept at handling a gun. Its called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. Theyd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone.

The president also mentioned a hypothetical scenario in which there would be armed military veterans in every school protecting students.

Youd have a lot of people that would be armed, that would be ready, Trump said. Theyre professionals, they may be Marines that left the Marines, that left the Army, left the Air Force… Theyd be spread evenly throughout the school.

If would-be school shooters knew that trained vets and armed teachers populated campuses, they wouldnt go into the school to start off with, the president said.

I think it could very well solve your problem.

He went on to say that a lot of people dont understand that airline pilots, a lot of them, carry guns. I have to say that things have changed a lot.

Trump then proceeded to poll the room of students and their families on whether they liked his idea.

Later Wednesday, the Broward County superintendent, Robert Runcie, pushed back against Trumps suggestions, saying before a CNN town hall: We dont need to put guns in the hands of teachers. You know what we need? We need to arm our teachers with more money in their pocket.

The president also spoke about mental health issues, suggesting that it should be made easier to confine an individual who hasnt yet committed a crime. Years ago, we had mental hospitals, institutions, we had a lot of them and a lot of them have closed. Some people thought it was a stigma, Trump said. Today, if you catch somebody, they dont know what to do with him. He hasnt committed the crime, but he may very well and theres no mental institution.

He also assured his audience that he supports strong background checks for gun purchases, an idea that has gained some traction in the White House.

Were going to be very strong on background checks, Trump declared. Well be doing very strong background checks. Very strong emphasis on the mental health of somebody. And we are going to do plenty of other things.

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The CDC Can’t Fund Gun Research. What if that Changed?

America doesn't have good data on guns. Blame the Dickey amendment. First introduced in 1996, the legislation didn't ban gun investigations explicitly (it forbade the use of federal dollars in the advocacy or promotion of gun control), but Congress that year also cut the budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the exact amount it had previously devoted to firearm research. It's had a chilling effect on the field ever since. (While some states and private foundations are conducting peer reviewed studies on gun violence, the federal government has been AWOL.) That means policymakers in Washington have little information about what causes gun violence, how it can be prevented or reduced, and who is most at risk.

But that could change. The February 14 killings in Parkland, Florida led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to consider repealing the Dickey amendment and resuming government-backed gun-research. Which raises a pressing question: If the CDC were to resume funding studies on the epidemiology of firearm violence, what questions would they want to answer right now?

"We don't know enough about the risk factors, for either the perpetrators or victims of gun violence," says Garen Wintemute, an ER physician and director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.

Wintemute says that one of the big predictors of future gun violence is a history of other forms of violence, like domestic abuse. But connecting the dots between prior behavior and future threat is difficult—especially on an individual basis. That said, researchers think that by identifying early signals and studying them more closely, they could help police and social service agents make better decisions about when to intervene.

He also wants to study the psychological impact that high rates of gun violence can have on communities. Does living in place where gunfire or gun violence is common make someone more or less likely to use a gun in the future? Social scientists say they don't know the answer yet.

As for preventing the next mass shooting, experts say they don't know enough about the effectiveness of proposed interventions. Take, for instance, the "gun restraining order" laws recently enacted in California, Oregon and Washington. Such regulations allow family members as well as law enforcement to ask a judge to confiscate guns from people deemed to pose "a serious risk of harm." (In San Diego County, ten gun owners recently received court orders to surrender their weapons under the new law.) It sounds like a good idea in theory, but to expand such laws to other states, or the federal level, policymakers would need to make a case for their effectiveness. And at least for now, the data on whether the laws have a measurable impact on either suicides or murders just doesn't exist.

“There isn’t any information other than anecdotal,” says Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Frattaroli says a key factor, when it comes to studying the effectiveness of firearm policies, is being able to follow weapons. One way to track how violence spreads is by tracing implicated weapons to their source. In big cities plagued by gun violence, these weapons are often bought and sold illegally. "We need to understand where guns are coming from, how they get from the legal market to the hands of people who are prohibited to purchase them," Frattaroli says. "That’s important to know if we want to get a handle on the flow of guns."

Doing so will require a lot more money, time, and resources than researchers currently possess. That’s where the CDC might serve as both a deep-pocketed grant-making agency, as well as a clearinghouse for various databases on gun violence and gun ownership. A boost in funding would also attract more and better scientists to the field, whose numbers have dwindled since the Dickey amendment went into effect. “As I recruit new investigators, it has been a critical question for applicants: 'Will I have a job in a couple years, or will I have to look for a job in another field because there’s no funding,'" Wintemute says.

Social scientist and ER docs like Frattaroli and Wintemute are encouraged by the possibility that Congress might direct the CDC to renew gun research. President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Alex Azar, said the day after the Florida shootings that he backs such efforts. But this shift might take a while. The agency has been without a leader since January, when director Brenda Fitzgerald resigned after news reports that she purchased tobacco stocks after taking office. Any big change in the status quo of the amendment—and more money for gun violence research—will probably have to wait for a change in control of Congress.

Gun Shy

  • The United States has never funded a research center to study gun violence—so last year, California started one on its own.

  • If the CDC's commitment to gun violence research expands, it could be a surprise to these researchers, who raced to protect the little data they had from the Trump administration.

  • If it doesn't, though, researchers will continue to find novel ways to work around their utter lack of data, like this group that rifled through old gun magazines for information.

Read more:

50 Cent Apparently Doesn’t Give A Shit Whether Rick Ross Dies Or Not

As we’ve been reporting over the last 24 hours, Rick Ross is reportedly in the hospital and fighting for his life on life support after being found unresponsive and ‘breathing heavy’ earlier on Friday.

And as you might expect, rappers and celebs from all walks of life are grappling with this significant health scare by pouring out condolences and support for Ross.

But not everybody is feeling so generous, apparently.

Related: Fergie Drops TWO New Singles With Nicki Minaj & Rick Ross

Late last night, 50 Cent posted this to his Instagram account (below):

A post shared by 50 Cent (@50cent) on Mar 2, 2018 at 10:15pm PST

For those unaware, that’s a picture of Ivan Drago from the movie Rocky IV — and in that particular scene, Drago is standing over Apollo Creed just as Creed is dying. Famously, Drago says during Creed’s last breaths, “If he dies, he dies.”

So in other words… 50 is making a commentary that “if he dies, he dies” at the exact same time many other celebs are reaching out with condolences for Ross’ health and recovery.

Dude… what the fuck?!?!

About an hour after he posted that on IG, 50 followed it up with another film-inspired pic and a very specific caption (below):

Yeah I’m different 🤫A post shared by 50 Cent (@50cent) on Mar 2, 2018 at 11:31pm PST

Different, huh?

Yeah… that’s, uh, different, all right…

What do y’all think about 50 Cent’s reaction to Rick Ross’ health issues?

Let us know in the comments (below).

[Image via Media Punch.]

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Scott Baio’s Wife Renee Diagnosed With ‘Moderate To Severe’ Brain Disease

It sounds like a very tough and uncertain road head for Scott Baio and his wife, Renee.

According to media reports and confirmed by Baio himself, Renee has been diagnosed with what’s being terms “moderate to severe” chronic microvascular disease — a condition that affects the brain and may have a profound impact on the rest of her life.

The actor confirmed Renee’s diagnosis first through Twitter on Saturday night (below):

And afterwards, Baio spoke to the media about the health news, as well.

Speaking with The Blast, Baio said:

“She was a former stuntwoman and had a massive brain injury in [1992] due to a jet ski accident. We don’t know if her tumors and this new disease has anything to do with this … All we know is she must live as stress-free, depression free and anxiety free life as possible and a get good amount of sleep each night. This new disease can cause strokes and dementia.”

So, so scary.

Self-care becomes critical for Renee at this point — and it’s doubly scary considering Renee’s history of brain tumors.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Baio family.

[Image via FayesVision/WENN.]

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5 Exercises And One Affordable Drink That’ll Help You Blast Belly Fat Fast

They say summer bodies are made in winter.

But someone needs to tell that to the baked mac n cheese I just ate last night, because neither it nor I got the memo. As swimsuit season fast approaches, a lot of us start feeling a little less than confident in what all those Christmas cookies and rich, potato-filled stews did to our bods in the winter months.

I feel you. And while I personally am a proponent of eating stuff you love and working out with the first motivation being health over anything, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to beat the belly bulge a little before sun dress weather hits. Luckily, there are 5 moves and one affordable shake you can incorporate into your routine to get back in tip top shape!

Because all food is good food, let’s start with that drink, shall we?

Okay, here’s what you’ll need to round up:

  • One small cucumber/half of a larger one
  • One lemon
  • 10 mint leaves
  • Ice
  • One teaspoon of ginger

Here’s why they work well together.

Cucumbers are 90% water, and half the battle in losing weight is staying hydrating and staying full. The water content in cucumbers will help you kill two birds with one stone. Lemon is great because it promotes bowel movements and flushes that system right on out. Ginger has a thermogenic effect, which helps burn calories when the body digests food. Mint has been shown to aid in digestion as well. Pop those babies in a blender, pour, and add ice if you so desire.

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6 Of Your Favorite Foods (That Have Horrible Secrets)

We don’t mean to overstate our case, but some might say that food is literally crucial to human survival. That’s why, over time, we’ve learned to stop eating random berries in the forest and pay attention to what exactly we’re putting into our food holes. But while we assume that our restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers are being honest about what they’re selling, the horrific truth is that what they’re truly feeding us are lies. Damn lies.

And sometimes mold.


Wineries Are Spiking Wines With Wood Chips And Grape Juice

Good wine, the kind that doesn’t come in boxes with a mascot on it, can get expensive. It’s made from the finest of grapes, and is then left to ferment in caskets made of rich oak. That’s why wines with a deep color and a slightly wooden taste are a surefire sign of quality. Except that wineries have found a much more efficient way of giving their wine its oaken flavor: They simply put wood in the wine.

Greece and Grapes“I’m getting hints of broken chair and old deck.”

Turns out that those barrels you saw on the tour of your local winery may have only been for show. Wooden barrels are now being replaced with steel vats, but to keep the wine’s expensive oaken taste, it gets mixed with “barrel alternatives.” That’s a fancy term for wood staves, chips, and even shavings thrown into a vat along with the wine. Why? Because using shavings shaves a dollar off the price of a bottle (on their end, of course, not ours), up until all those splinter-related lawsuits presumably start pouring in.

Carol Franzia/Bronco WineYes, this one has a very nice garden hose bouquet.

But that’s not the only way wineries are cutting corners. A lot of wine is made using something called “Mega Purple,” which sounds like the main villain in a coloring-themed manga. It’s a grape concentrate, or slurry, which big wine labels add to underwhelming red wine to intensify the flavor and color and sometimes even to mask spoilage. It’s estimated that over 25 million bottles get spiked with Mega Purple on a yearly basis. Many wineries rely so heavily on it that they have their own reverse-osmosis machines which let them make their own concentrates by extracting the alcohol from their shitty wines to pump up slightly less shitty wine. Yummy.

Andy Perdue/Great Northwest WineThe flavor of a thousand $3 wines.

And then there’s the migrant labor. California’s famous Napa Valley is heavily dependent on migrant laborers, to the extent that The New York Times wrote that “nearly every drop” of the wine depends on them. And lest you think they’re being treated well, that’s not how migrant labor works. Vineyards overwork their laborers, and often cheat them out of most of their paychecks through exorbitant living expenses, making it so that a typical worker might only earn $10 for ten hours of backbreaking work. It seems that from field to cellar, something other than grapes is being squeezed.


A Third Of All Fish Is Intentionally Mislabeled

Like most humans (except for those people who compulsively eat pennies), we’re very particular about the things we eat. As a result, “mystery meat” is regarded as less of a gourmet experience and more of a post-apocalyptic necessity. But in seafood restaurants, one out of three times, what you shovel on your fork might not be what you pointed at on the menu at all.

As we’ve mentioned before, the food industry has a long history of falsely labeling things to attract picky customers. However, when it comes to selling fish, mislabeling has become an epidemic. According to an investigation by Oceana, which tested 1,200 samples from supermarkets and restaurants across 21 states, it was discovered that 33 percent of fish were mislabeled. In South California, that number rose to an astonishing 52 percent, meaning there were more phony fish than the real McCod. Nowhere but LA could even their fish be mostly fake.

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston GlobeOne always lies about being tuna, the other always tells the truth. You may ask no questions.

The fish most likely to be counterfeit was red snapper. Of the 120 samples they tested, only seven were in truth red snapper, making them the rarest fish to spot, second only to the Loch Ness monster. White tuna also belongs on a milk carton, as 84 percent of its samples turned out to be escolar, which can cause nasty digestive problems. Other commonly mislabeled fish include halibut, grouper, cod, and Chilean sea bass. And it turns out that sushi restaurants also rest their sashimi on a bed of lies, because 74 percent of the samples from such venues were mislabeled, making your local gas station actually the safest place to eat sushi.

So for those of us who would like to know what sea monster we’re shoveling down our throats, here’s a helpful chart:

OceanaAnd the side of prawns you ordered are spray-painted cockroaches.

As you can tell, lots of these hidden fish don’t sound too tasty, and they’re also nowhere near as valuable as the listed fish. But even if they were as good (they aren’t), not a lot of people would pay the same for some slickback, toothfish, or weakfish … or giltheaded seabream, which sounds like one of Jethro Tull’s lesser albums. We’re most worried about the Asian “catfish,” but that’s because we don’t believe in eating food that comes with a garnish of quotation marks.


Farmers Markets And Farm-To-Table Restaurants Are Full Of Frauds

Tired of the faceless franchise eateries serving over-salted slop? The depressingly lit chain supermarkets selling you genetically modified, hormone-injected, battery-farmed zucchinis? Well then it’s time to put on your horn-rimmed glasses and plaid shirt and head on over to those quaint farmers markets and farm-to-table eateries for some wholesome, unmolested food. Except that the ethical side of food production isn’t all that ethical either, having been infiltrated by frauds and con artists. Who knew you couldn’t trust some random dude in overalls?

In California, farmers market cheaters are running rampant. Plenty of the state is farmland, so it’s easy to assume most of your food is coming straight from the field. However, when the NBCLA did an undercover investigation of farmers markets in the area, they discovered that many of them were clearly selling produces they hadn’t cultivated themselves.

See, in order to sell at a farmers market, you actually have to be a farmer — a verified one, with a pitchfork and everything. But when the NBCLA drove to the “farms,” all they found were a bunch of weeds / dirt fields. So unless these farmers were all part of some wizardly hippie collective magicking up their produce out of thin air, it’s safe to assume they were selling you the same stuff you could find at a Walmart at half the price. Fake farmers are popping up all over the country, some of them so brazen that they’ll specifically label their food pesticide-free while having no idea whether that’s true or not. How would they know? They’re not really farmers.

The same sort of chicanery goes on at farm-to-table restaurants. A series of exposes in The Tampa Bay Times revealed the myriad ways your favorite locally sourced hipster eating collective could be lying to you, from frozen food masquerading as fresh and buying pre-made dishes, to fish mislabeling and food marked as “organic” or “non-GMO” which was the exact opposite. As the owner of the famous Chino Farms noted: “Chefs will come, write down notes, leave without buying anything, and then say they’re serving our food at their restaurants.” They hypocrisy is so intense that one restaurant even had a “F**k Monsanto Salad” on its menu (along with truffle fries), but when a reporter confronted the chef about where he got his produce, he shrugged and said, “It’s really hard to find non-GMO produce.” But it’s so, so easy to lie.


Lots Of Craft Whiskey Labels Don’t Even Make Their Own Alcohol

Whiskey is the drink that breaks through all social barriers — and we don’t just mean that it’ll make you get naked in public. The brown stuff is famous for its variety in taste, each brand having its own distinct flavor profile. There’s a whiskey out there for everyone, almost literally these days. With the growing popularity of small batches, hundreds of artisanal whiskeys are bringing their subtly unique flavor to the masses. Well, not all that unique, really, as most American small batches all come from the same giant vats in Indiana.

Eagle Country OnlineYour typical seven-story startup.

While craft whiskeys like to pretend they’re all wholesome small businesses distilling hooch from an ancient family recipe, the sad truth that this is often a marketing stunt. To cut corners, many of these new artisanal labels buy their alcohol wholesale from a single factory distillery in Indiana. MGP (formerly Seagrams) mass produces all kinds of alcohol (including “food grade industrial alcohol”), and is known for its low cost and consistency in taste — the same consistency that then gets poured into dozens of differently labeled bottles, each boasting of their “individual and unique” taste. So if you ever wondered how you were able to buy 15-year-aged rye from a company that only started in June, there’s your answer.

As for the why, start-up distilleries often use the same excuse. They do it as “a means to develop a brand and help fund the next step” of distilling their own alcohol. But it’s easier and cheaper and lazier, and often they never stop. Some craft labels even go as far as to create “Potemkin distilleries” — shiny distilleries that produce nothing but the appearance of self-sufficiency while the label keeps slinging their cheap factory booze. Even some pretty large labels cut the same corners, such as Bulleit, George Dickel rye, and Angel’s Envy, while other so-called craft labels are in fact owned by bigger, more mass-produced companies looking to upsell their leftovers. Most of them don’t even modify their factory booze before they pour it into their fancy bottles, which turn out to be the only things they put some effort into.

Knotter BourbonAt least these guys are upfront about it.

But if you really like MGP’s stuff (after all, you’ve probably already drunk loads of it without realizing), at least there’s one label that doesn’t lie to you. Knotter (as in “not our”) Bourbon markets its booze with the statement “We didn’t distill this bourbon. Nope, not a drop.” Now that’s the kind of straight-shootin’ honesty we like to see.


Licorice Causes All Sorts Of Medical Problems

Licorice is one of those divisive candies. Either you love ’em, or you’ve eaten the black ones. Its distinctive taste comes from the licorice root, a plant that shows nature can easily be a very boring Willy Wonka. But as is the case with any plant life, new biological discoveries can change the way we look at them each day. And unfortunately for licorice fans out there, licorice root is terrible for you.

Rik Schuiling/TropCrop – TCSAnd not just terrible-tasting.

In 2001, Finnish researchers discovered that licorice root is a complicating factor in pregnancies, leading to premature birth — so best not use it as a teething tool either unless you want your kid to stay under four feet. But the list goes on. The root can also be a contributing factor in kidney disease, breast malignancies, and (obviously) diabetes. It can also interfere with medicines such as blood thinners and insulin. It’s poison, is what we’re saying. Just be safe and eat sugar straight out of the bag.

But don’t worry about those little health niggles, as licorice can straight up kill you as well. Because it screws with your potassium level, the FDA has warned people over 40 that they can develop heart problems merely by eating two ounces of licorice candy daily for two weeks. The FDA even went so far as to say that everyone, regardless of their age or how healthy they are, should be careful consuming licorice. Fortunately, the problem is usually reversible if you stop eating the stuff. Great! It’s the cigarettes of sweets! Time for a whole new ad campaign.


The Best “Aged” Steaks Involve Mold

Aged steak is delicious. It’s so delicious that most of us never even question why on earth “aging” meat would be a good thing; it just obviously is. And for those of you who would like to keep living with that ignorant bliss, best you stop reading here and go enjoy a juicy Matrix steak right now.

Christopher Thomond/The GuardianBon appetit.

For the rest of you intrepid explorers … we don’t know how to sugar-coat this for you, so we’re just going to show you what your $80 dry-aged steak looks like 15 minutes before you put it in your mouth.

Men’s HealthBad appetit.

The somewhat-revolting truth is that steak gets aged by controlled rotting — like cheese, only made from the decaying carcass of a dead animal. Dry-aging beef, the old-school way of doing it, is done by placing the meat in an environment where the chef controls the temperature, humidity, and ventilation. This process causes the meat to dry in a way to increases its flavor while the beef slowly decays and becomes more tender. Meanwhile, the outer layer of the beef quickly transforms into a horrific crust of mold, which is then cut off right before you eat it, which means hobos eating out of the dumpster and people paying a few hundred dollars for a steak do have something in common after all.

Unfortunately, this fungus feast for steak lovers is only getting worse, as gourmet restaurants are starting a crazy arms race about it, trying to out-age each other like they’re bitter rivals who wound up in the same retirement home. 55-day steak, 100-day steak, 180-day steak … soon, you’ll have an aged steak that’s old enough to drive. The current winner appears to be the Dallas Chop House in Texas (where else) which served a 459-day steak. If they’d aged it any longer, it’ll look about as appetizing as a zombie from The Walking Dead right before it hits your plate.

Serious EatsAre we sure “aged” isn’t naturopath for “roadkill?”

So while the food industry is constantly lying to you about where and how your favorite eatings come into being, we guess the moral here is that sometimes, we should be grateful for the lies.

Dry-aging steak at home is actually still kind of a neat process to watch, try it yourself and see.

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Trumps Budget Cut for HIV/AIDS Would Kill 300,000 People Per Year, Report Says

Three-hundred thousand deaths per year.

Thats the human cost of President Donald Trumps proposal to cut $1 billion cut from global HIV funding in 2019, a 20% reduction from current levels, according to a report by the ONE campaign. And it comes just when American-led efforts are paying off, and the global tide of the epidemic appears to be turning.

Ironically, the proposed cut lands mostly on the program responsible for Americas success in this area, PEPFAR (the Presidents Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief), initiated by George W. Bush and beloved of Trump-voting evangelical Christians today, many leading HIV relief organizations are religiously affiliated.

There has been bipartisan support for PEPFAR over the years, but Trumps budget cuts it by $800 million, in addition to $225 million to be cut from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Both would be unprecedented cuts for the agencies.

And yet, PEPFAR is working. Based on epidemiological research, PEPFAR alone is credited with saving 11 million lives over the past 15 years. PEPFAR was also a catalyst for other countries, and private actors, to invest more and to combat other diseases at the same time as HIV.

These efforts have yielded significant results. There has been a 47 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths since 2003, and new, inexpensive anti-retroviral medications have turned the tide in several countries.

Meanwhile, USAID, PEPFAR, and the United Nations have committed to the goals of, by the year 2020, diagnosing and treating 90% of people with HIV and reducing new infections to 500,000 per year. Globally, it is estimated that 36.7 million people are living with HIV. At present, 17 million of them are not receiving any form of treatment.

These are not only humanitarian successes but strategic ones as well. At its worst, the HIV epidemic has destabilized U.S. allies; controlling the epidemic means reducing chaos. And from a purely self-interested point of view, HIV relief is part of the United States soft power, which maintains its leadership position relative to adversaries like Russia and China.

The reaction of LGBTQ and HIV advocates has been predictable: a consortium of HIV organizations wrote to congressional leaders last fall, when the cuts were first rumored, worrying that the U.S. commitment to ending AIDS is waning.

Now that the cuts are actually in the proposed budget similar cuts were rejected by Congress last year, and most likely will be again the response has been swift.

The United States has been a leader in the fight to end the AIDS epidemic around the world and these programs are vital to the health of millions around the world, David Stacy, Government Affairs Director at the Human Rights Campaign, told the Daily Beast. The Trump-Pence Administration is abandoning a bipartisan effort that Presidents Bush and Obama championed. Cutting essential funding for these life-saving services jeopardizes not only LGTBQ people but significantly undermines the overall health infrastructure in these countries.

Former president Bush himself took to the Washington Post last year, when Trump proposed a smaller cut to PEPFAR in the 2018 budget. When we confront suffering when we save lives we breathe hope into devastated populations, strengthen and stabilize society, and make our country and the world safer, Bush wrote. We shouldnt spend money on programs that dont work, whether at home or abroad. But [the government] should fully fund programs that have proven to be efficient, effective and results-oriented.

The question, then, is why. Why now? Why cut a program that is working, that is supported by people across the political spectrum, and that is tiny in comparison to other government programs? (Trumps budget adds about $12 billion to military spending, bringing the total to $686 billion.)

Why bother making friends when you can defeat your enemies?

The Trump administration is saying nothing. U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx said during the last round of proposed cuts that Translating that money into the most effective programs that we can, that reaches the most lives in the most impactful way thats our job. In other words, well make do with what weve got and Im not going to say anything bad about my boss.

Presumably, some of the impetus from the cuts comes from an America First philosophy that American strength is defined solely by how big the button is on Trumps desk, rather than by how America leads worldwide in issues like global health. Thats why the State Department is in tatters, with empty offices throughout the Truman Building, while the Pentagon is going back on steroids. Why bother making friends when you can defeat your enemies?

Or perhaps the administration believes that others will step in to fill the void America leaves behind: private foundations, other governments, the tooth fairy. Let someone else foot the bill for a change, right?

Or maybe no one in the White House really cares how many Africans die of AIDS.

Or it may be that the cut to global HIV funding is part of the administrations overall abandonment of people with HIV. Domestic HIV spending is also being slashed in the new budget. And recall, Trump recentlyfired the entire Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS apparently over their refusal to endorse ineffective abstinence only programs and has closed theWhite House Office of National AIDS Policy.

If HIV is being singled out, that, too, begs the question of why. For almost two decades, national Christian organizations have moved beyond the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS that marked the 1980s and 1990s. As Bushs op-ed pointed out, 2 million babies have been born to HIV-positive mothers without passing on the infection. WorldVision, a Christian global relief organization, is running HIV prevention programs in Africa.

Are we really going back to the Eighties, when HIV/AIDS was a gay disease and Reagan White House officials joked about it? Trump himself seems trapped in the decade making comments about Haitians having AIDS, for example. Is that what this is all about? Is that the reason for the slashing of effective health programs here and abroad?

And if not, then what is it?

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I have prostate cancer. But I am happy | George Monbiot

The three principles that define a good life will protect me from despair, says Guardian columnist George Monbiot

It came, as these things often do, like a gunshot on a quiet street: shocking and disorienting. In early December, my urine turned brown. The following day I felt feverish and found it hard to pee. I soon realised I had a urinary tract infection. It was unpleasant, but seemed to be no big deal. Now I know that it might havesavedmy life.

The doctor told me this infection was unusual in a man of my age, and hinted at an underlying condition. So I had a blood test, which revealed that my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were off the scale. An MRI scan and a mortifying biopsy confirmed my suspicions. Prostate cancer: all the smart young men have itthisseason.

On Monday, I go into surgery. The prostate gland is buried deep in the body, so removing it is a major operation: there are six entry points and it takes four hours. The procedure will hack at the roots of my manhood. Because of the damage that will be caused to the surrounding nerves, theres a high risk of permanent erectile dysfunction. Because the urethra needs to be cut and reattached to the bladder, I will almost certainly suffer urinary incontinence for a few months, and possibly permanently. Because the removal of part of the urethra retracts the penis, it appears to shrink, at least until it can be stretched back into shape.

I was offered a choice: radical surgery or brachytherapy. This means implanting radioactive seeds in the parts of the prostate affected by cancer. Brachytherapy has fewer side effects, and recovery is much faster. But theres a catch. If it fails to eliminate the cancer, theres nothing more that can be done. This treatment sticks the prostate gland to the bowel and bladder, making surgery extremely difficult. Once youve had one dose of radiation, they wont give you another. I was told that the chances of brachytherapy working in my case were between 70 and 80%. The odds were worse, in other words, than playing Russian roulette (which, with one bullet in a six-chambered revolver, gives you 83%). Though I have a tendency to embrace risk, this was not an attractive option.

It would be easy to curse my luck and start to ask, Why me? I have never smoked and hardly drink; I have a ridiculously healthy diet and follow a severe fitness regime. Im 20 or 30 years younger than most of the men I see in the waiting rooms. In other words, I would have had a lower risk of prostate cancer only if I had been female. And yet I am happy. In fact, Im happier than I was before my diagnosis. How can this be?

The reason is that Ive sought to apply the three principles which, I believe, sit at the heart of a good life. The first is the most important: imagine how much worse it could be, rather than how much better.

When you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your condition is ranked on the Gleason Score, which measures its level of aggression. Mine is graded at seven out of 10. But this doesnt tell me where I stand in general. I needed another index to assess the severity of my condition, so I invented one: the Shitstorm Scale. How does my situation compare to those of people I know, who contend with other medical problems or family tragedies? How does it compare to what might have been, had the cancer not been caught while it was still apparently confined to the prostate gland? How does it compare to innumerable other disasters that could have befallen me?

When I completed the exercise, I realised that this bad luck, far from being a cause of woe, is a reminder of how lucky I am. I have the love of my family and friends. I have the support of those with whom I work. I have the NHS. My Shitstorm Score is a mere two out of 10.

The tragedy of our times is that, rather than apply the most useful of English proverbs cheer up, it could be worse we are constantly induced to imagine how much better things could be. The rich lists and power lists with which the newspapers are filled, our wall-to-wall celebrity culture, the invidious billions spent on marketing and advertising, create an infrastructure of comparison that ensures we see ourselves as deprived of what others possess. It is a formula for misery.

The second principle is this: change what you can change, accept what you cant. This is not a formula for passivity Ive spent my working life trying to alter outcomes that might have seemed immovable to other people. The theme of my latest book is that political failure is, at heart, a failure of imagination. But sometimes we simply have to accept an obstacle as insuperable. Fatalism in these circumstances is protective. I accept that my lap is in the lap of the gods.

So I will not rage against the morbidity this surgery might cause. I wont find myself following Groucho Marx who, at the age of 81, magnificently lamented: Im going to Iowa to collect an award. Then Im appearing at Carnegie Hall, its sold out. Then Im sailing to France to pick up an honour from the French government. Id give it all up for one erection. And today theres Viagra.

The third principle is this: do not let fear rule your life. Fear hems us in, stops us from thinking clearly, and prevents us from either challenging oppression or engaging calmly with the impersonal fates. When I was told that this operation had an 80% chance of success, my first thought was thats roughly the same as one of my kayaking trips. And about twice as good as the chance of emerging from those investigations in West Papua and the Amazon.

There are, I believe, three steps to overcoming fear: name it, normalise it, socialise it. For too long, cancer has been locked in the drawer labelled Things We Dont Talk About. When we call it the Big C, it becomes, as the term suggests, not smaller, but larger in our minds. He Who Must Not Be Named is diminished by being identified, and diminished further when he becomes a topic of daily conversation.

The super-volunteer Jeanne Chattoe, whom I interviewed recently for another column, reminded me that, just 25 years ago, breast cancer was a taboo subject. Thanks to the amazing advocacy of its victims, this is almost impossible to imagine today. Now we need to do the same for other cancers. Let there be no moreterriblesecrets.

So I have sought to discuss my prostate cancer as I would discuss any other issue. I make no apologies for subjecting you to the grisly details: the more familiar they become, the less horrifying. In doing so, I socialise my condition. Last month, I discussed the remarkable evidence suggesting that a caring community enhances recovery and reduces mortality. In talking about my cancer with family and friends, I feel the love that I know will get me through this. The old strategy of suffering in silence could not have been more misguided.

I had intended to use this column to urge men to get themselves tested. But since my diagnosis, weve discovered two things. The first is that prostate cancer has overtaken breast cancer to become the third biggest cancer killer in the UK. The second is that the standard assessment (the PSA blood test) is of limited use. As prostate cancer in its early stages is likely to produce no symptoms, its hard to see what men can do to protect themselves. That urinary tract infection was a remarkably lucky break.

Instead, I urge you to support the efforts led by Prostate Cancer UK to develop a better test. Breast cancer has attracted twice as much money and research as prostate cancer, not because (as the Daily Mail suggests) men are the victims of injustice, but because womens advocacy has been so effective. Campaigns such as Men United and the Movember Foundation have sought to bridge this gap, but theres a long way to go. Prostate cancer is discriminatory: for reasons unknown, black men are twice as likely to suffer it as white men. Finding better tests and treatments is a matter of both urgencyand equity.

I will ride this out. I will own this disease, but I wont be defined by it: I will not be prostrated by my prostate. I will be gone for a few weeks but when I return, I do solemnly swear I will still be the argumentative old git with whom you are familiar.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Prostate Cancer UK can be contacted on 0800 0748383

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The Struggle to Predictand PreventToxic Masculinity

Terrie Moffitt has been trying to figure out why men are terrible for more than 25 years. Or, to calibrate: Why some men are really terrible—violent, criminal, dangerous—but most men are not. And, while she’s at it, how to tell which man is going to become which.

A small number of people are responsible for the vast majority of crimes. Many of those people display textbook “antisocial behavior”—technically, a serious disregard for other people’s rights—as adolescents. The shape of the problem is called the age-crime curve, arrests plotted against the age of the offender. It looks like a shark’s dorsal fin, spiking in the teenage years and then long-tailing off to the left.

In 1992, Moffitt, now a psychologist at Duke University, pitched an explanation for that shape: The curve covers two separate groups. Most people don’t do bad things. Some people only do them as teenagers. And a very small number start doing them as toddlers and keep doing them until they go to prison or die. Her paper became a key hypothesis in psychology, criminology, and sociology, cited thousands of times.

In a review article in Nature Human Behaviour this week, Moffitt takes a ride through two decades of attempts to validate the taxonomy. Not for girls, Moffitt writes, because even though she studies both sexes, “findings have not reached consensus.” But for boys and men? Oh yeah.

To be clear, Moffitt isn’t trying to develop a toxicology of toxic masculinity here. As a researcher she’s interested in the interactions of genes and environment, and the reasons some delinquent children—but not all—turn into crime-committing adults. That’s a big enough project. But at this exact cultural moment, with women of the #MeToo movement calling sexual harassers and abusers to account just as mass shootings feel as if they’ve become a permanent recurring event—and when almost every mass shooter, up to and including the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has been a man—I’m inclined to try to find explanations anywhere that seems plausible. US women are more likely to be killed by partners than anyone else. Men commit the vast majority of crimes in the US. So it’s worth querying Moffitt’s taxonomy to see if it offers any order to that chaos, even if it wasn’t built for it.

“Grown-ups who use aggression, intimidation, and force to get what they want have invariably been pushing other people around since their very early childhood,” Moffitt says via email from a rural vacation in New Zealand. “Their mothers report they were difficult babies, nursery day-care workers say they are difficult to control, and when all the other kids give up hitting and settle in as primary school pupils, teachers say they don’t. Their record of violating the rights of others begins surprisingly early, and goes forward from there.”

So if you could identify those kids then, maybe you could make things better later? Of course, things are way more complicated than that.

Since that 1993 paper, hundreds of studies have tested pieces of Moffitt’s idea. Moffitt herself has worked on a few prospective studies, following kids through life to see if they fall into her categories, and then trying to figure out why.

For example, she worked with the Dunedin Study, which followed health outcomes for more than 1,000 boys and girls in New Zealand starting in the early 1970s. Papers published from the data have included looks at marijuana use, physical and mental health, and psychological outcomes. Moffitt and her colleagues found that about a quarter of the males in the study fit the criteria she’d laid out for “adolescence limited” antisociability; they’re fine until they hit their teens, then they do all sorts of bad stuff, and then they stop. And 10 percent were “life-course persistent”—they have trouble as children, and it doesn’t stop. As adolescents, all had about the same rates of bad conduct.

But as children, the LCP boys scored much higher on a set of specific risks. Their mothers were younger. They tended to have been disciplined more harshly, and have experienced more family strife as kids. They scored lower on reading, vocabulary, and memory tests, and had a lower resting heart rate—some researchers think that people feel lower heart rates as discomfort and undertake riskier behaviors in pursuit of the adrenaline highs that’ll even them out. “LCP boys were impulsive, hostile, alienated, suspicious, cynical, and callous and cold toward others,” Moffitt writes of the Dunedin subjects in her Nature Human Behaviour article. As adults, “they self-reported excess violence toward partners and children.” They had worse physical and mental health in their 30s, were more likely to be incarcerated, and were more likely to attempt suicide.

Other studies have found much the same thing. A small number of identifiable boys turn into rotten, violent, unhappy men.

Could Moffitt’s taxonomy account for sexual harassers and abusers? In one sense, it seems unlikely: Her distinction explicitly says by adulthood there should only be a small number of bad actors, yet one of the lessons of #MeToo has been that every woman, it seems, has experienced some form of harassment.

Meta-analyses of the incidence of workplace sexual harassment vary in their outcomes, but a large-scale one from 2003 that covered 86,000 women reported that 56 percent experienced “potentially harassing” behaviors and 24 percent had definitely been harassed. Other studies get similar results.

But as pollsters say, check the cross-tabs. Harassment has sub-categories. Many—maybe most—women experience the gamut of harassing behaviors, but sub-categories like sexual coercion (being forced to have sex as a quid pro quo or to avoid negative consequences) or outright assault are rarer than basic institutional sexism and jerky, inappropriate comments. “What women are more likely to experience is everyday sexist behavior and hostility, the things we would describe as gender harassment,” says John Pryor, a psychologist at Illinois State University who studies harassment.

Obviously, any number greater than zero here is too high. And studies of prevalence can’t tell you if so many women are affected because all men harass at some low, constant ebb or few men do it, like, all the time. Judging by reports of accusations, the same super-creepy men who plan out sexual coercion may also impulsively grope and assault women. Those kind of behaviors, combined with the cases where many more accusers come forward after the first one, seem to me to jibe with the life-course persistent idea. “Sometimes people get caught for the first time as an adult, but if we delve into their history, the behavior has been there all along,” Moffitt says. “Violating the rights of others is virtually always a life-long lifestyle and an integral part of a person’s personality development.”

That means it’s worth digging into people’s histories. Whisper networks have been the de facto means of protecting women in the workplace; the taxonomy provides an intellectual framework for giving them a louder voice, because it suggests that men with a history of harassment and abuse probably also have a future of it.

Now, some writers have used the idea of toxic masculinity to draw a line between harassment, abuse, and mass shootings. They’re violent, and the perpetrators tend to be men. But here, Moffitt’s taxonomy may be less applicable.

Despite what the past few years have felt like, mass shootings are infrequent. And many mass shooters end up committing suicide or being killed themselves, so science on them is scant. “Mass shootings are such astonishingly rare, idiosyncratic, and multicausal events that it is impossible to explain why one individual decides to shoot his or her classmates, coworkers, or strangers and another does not,” write Benjamin Winegard and Christopher Ferguson in their chapter of The Wiley Handbook of the Psychology of Mass Shootings.

That said, researchers have found a few commonalities. The shooters are often suicidal, or more precisely have stopped caring whether they live or die, says Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama. Sometimes they’re seeking fame and attention. And they share a sense that they themselves are victims. “That’s how they justify attacking others,” Lankford says. “Sometimes the perceptions are based in reality—I was bullied, or whatever—but sometimes they can be exacerbated by mental health problems or personality characteristics.”

Though reports on mass shooters often say that more than half of them are also domestic abusers, that number needs some unpacking. People have lumped together mass shootings of families—domestic by definition—with public mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas, or school shootings. Disaggregate the public active shooters from the familicides and the number of shooters with histories of domestic abuse goes down. (Of course, that doesn’t change preposterously high number of abused women murdered by their partners outside of mass shooting events.)

What may really tip the mass shooter profile away from Moffitt’s taxonomy, though, is that people in the life-course persistent cohort do uncontrolled, crazy stuff all the time. Yes, some mass shooters have a history of encounters with law enforcement, let’s say. But some don’t. Mass shootings are, characteristically, highly planned events. “I’m not saying it’s impossible to be a mass shooter and have poor impulse control, but if you have poor impulse control you won’t be able to go for 12 months of planning an attack without ending up in jail first,” Lankford says.

Moffitt isn’t trying to build a unified field theory of the deadly patriarchy. When I suggest that the societal structures that keep men in power relative to women, generally, might explain the behavior of her LCP cohort, she disagrees. “If sexual harassment and mass shootings were the result of cultural patriarchy and societal expectations for male behavior, all men would be doing it all the time,” Moffitt says. “Even though media attention creates the impression that these forms of aggression are highly prevalent and all around us, they are nevertheless still extremely rare. Most men are trustworthy, good, and sensible.”

She and her colleagues continue to look for hard markers for violence or lack of impulse control, genes or neurobiological anomalies. (A form of the gene that codes for a neurotransmitter called monoamine oxidase inhibitor A might give some kids protection against lifelong effects of maltreatment, she and her team have found. By implication not having that polymorphism, then, could predispose a child raised under adverse circumstances to psychopathology as an adult.) Similarly, nobody yet knows what digital-native kids in either cohort will do when they move their bad behavior online. One might speculate that it looks a lot like GamerGate and 4chan, though that sociological and psychological work is still in early days.

But for now, Moffitt and her co-workers have identified risk factors and childhood conditions that seem to create these bad behaviors, or allow them to flourish. That’s the good news. “We know a lifestyle of aggression and intimidation toward others starts so young,” Moffitt says. “It could be preventable.”

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Having A Beer In The Shower Isn’t Just Relaxing — It Might Make You Smarter

There’s nothing quite like the simple pleasure of enjoying a cold, refreshing beer while you’re luxuriating in the shower.

It’s fun, relaxing, and, frankly, gives you a pretty nice buzz while you’re scrubbing away all the worries of the world in your own warm, comfortable bubble. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten through a terrible day, grabbed a beer out of the fridge, hopped into the shower, and practically felt my stress melt away with a few swigs. All that is pretty great enough, but get ready for some even greater news — it can also help you become more creative!

Every once in a while when I need to kick my imagination in gear and get those creative juices flowing, I pour myself a drink, and I’m definitely not the only one.

In fact, a University of Illinois study, which tested 40 men on their ability to solve brain-teasers, found that those who drank a couple of pints were able to solve 40% more of the problems than those who didn’t drink anything.

But as psychologist Jennifer Wiley points out, having a cold one doesn’t make you smarter at everything. “We found at 0.07 blood alcohol, people were worse at working memory tasks, but they were better at creative problem-solving tasks,” she said.

Still, she doesn’t discount the positive effects alcohol has when it comes to problem-solving. “We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving,” she said. “But that’s not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it’s good to be distracted.”

So where does the shower part comes in? Well, creativity is associated with an increased flow of dopamine, or the feel-good hormone. The more dopamine is released, the better we feel and the more creative we get. And as you’ve probably already guessed, taking a hot shower is one dopamine-releasing trigger. Pair that with beer-fuel problem-solving abilities and you’ll feel ready to conquer the world.

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GOP Lawmaker Rants At Students Who Drove 300 Miles To Meet Him

An Idaho Republican state senator has been labeled a “bully” after ranting at college students who traveled hundreds of miles to discuss a birth control bill with lawmakers.

State Sen. Dan Foreman also has been slapped with an ethics complaint for an incendiary follow-up tweet sent from an account allegedly associated with him.

The tense exchange between Foreman and about a dozen University of Idaho students was captured on camera Monday. Video circulating on social media shows Foreman forcefully pointing his finger and belligerently saying “abortion is murder” to the students, who say they didn’t come to discuss abortion at all.

Foreman’s diatribe was “unhinged,” said Paul Dillon, public affairs director of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, which is affiliated with the student group. “Even if you disagree with what we have to say, there’s no excuse for that kind behavior. He was being a bully,” Dillon told AP.

The students, who traveled from their college campus in Moscow to Boise to meet with Foreman and other lawmakers, were in the capitol to lobby for two bills ― one that allows women to receive up to a 12-month supply of prescribed birth control, and another that updates the state’s decades-old sex education law, reported the Idaho Statesman.

The student group had scheduled a morning meeting with Foreman, but the senator reportedly canceled at the last minute. The students say they left a note and some condoms at his office before moving on to meet with other lawmakers. 

“We drove 7 hours to make it to our SCHEDULED 9 a.m. meeting,” the message read, noting that the lawmaker was “not doing [his] job” by blowing them off. 

The students later saw Foreman in the hallway, triggering the stormy exchange.

“I’m a Roman Catholic and a conservative Republican. I think what you guys are doing stinks,” Foreman told the group, according to the video. He added that he would call law enforcement if the students ever tried to visit his office again.

A Twitter account that appears to be associated with Foreman later tweeted about the incident. One tweet urged the University of Idaho students to “stop harassing me and staff.” Another told them to talk about “killing babies” with Democratic Sen. Maryanne Jordan of Boise.

Jordan told the AP on Monday that she filed an ethics complaint against Foreman for the inflammatory tweet. 

“It’s one thing to disagree with policy, it’s another thing to position something like that against another lawmaker. This type of behavior is beneath the Idaho Senate,” Jordan said.

The Twitter account, which had the handle @SenDanTheMan, was deleted after the complaint was filed. According to the Statesman, it was briefly reactivated on Monday night with a tweet saying that the account was a “parody” one. The account was later deactivated again, and remained down early Tuesday.

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The Vatican Hosts a Hackathon

In recent years, organizations have used hackathons to find code-enabled solutions for everything from the opioid crisis to gerrymandering. It's hard to imagine a field where a hack day hasn't been utilized to solve one problem or another. But tomorrow a group of budding entrepreneurs, developers, and technologists will be making hackathon history: participating in the first-ever codefest in Vatican City.

The event, VHacks, is bringing together 120 students for a 36-hour hackathon aimed at finding technological solutions for three global issues the Catholic Church hopes to address: social inclusion, interfaith dialogue, and assistance for migrants and refugees.

The seed of the idea sprouted last year when Jakub Florkiewicz, a student at Harvard Business School, met the Reverend Eric Salobir, founder of Optic, the first Vatican-affiliated think tank on technology and Monseigneur Lucio Ruiz from the Vatican's Secretariat for Communication. Salobir had helped organize hackathons through Optic before, in San Francisco and Paris, but he was thinking of coordinating one at the church's enclave in Rome. "In the past couple of years, the Vatican has been in a period of transformation initiated by Pope Francis, including in terms of using digital technologies and digital media," Salobir says. "This is the first [hackathon] at the Vatican, so it is very symbolic."

In his tenure, Francis has embraced social media—he has 17 million Twitter followers and more than 5 million devotees on Instagram—and even spoke last year at TED, the conference famous for drawing flocks of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and technologists. But he’s also openly discussed the peril of technology. In his second encyclical, Laudato Si’, released in 2015, Francis directly addressed technology’s influence and implications in a lengthy chapter titled, "The roots of the ecological crisis." In it, he asked that the church focus on the "dominant technocratic paradigm and the place of human beings and of human action in the world" and examine the globalization of that paradigm.

Because technological applications can have international impacts, the organizers of the hackathon focused on soliciting participants from universities and programs around the world, looking for candidates from different backgrounds and faiths. "A key message on this event is collaboration and working together on the issues we all experience," Florkiewicz says. "Even if it’s facilitated by the Vatican as a religious institution, it’s a completely non-religious event."

Salobir agrees. "The point is not just to use it for the parishioners or the congregations, but to use technology for a broader purpose, to help society," he says, noting the church also works with institutions like schools and hospitals to bring aid to as large a constituency as possible.

But as society continues to question whether technology is the problem or the solution, the participants of VHacks have a big task ahead of them.

"We don’t expect anyone to solve such difficult issues," says Florkiewicz, "but I hope we can inspire both clerics and lay people to see this as an innovative model for engaging the younger generation with the problems."

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Trump offers a big thumbs up to school shooting victims instead of gun control

Trump flashes a thumbs up before boarding Marine One, destined for Florida where he will meet with victims and first responders after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Image: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

On Friday, President Donald Trump visited Parkland, Florida in the wake of a school shooting in a high school that left 17 people dead. But Trump has faced criticism over the way he carried himself during that visit.

After an awkward meeting with first responders, the president and first lady Melania Trump stood together for a friendly photo op, which in itself seems insensitive. Trump had a huge smile on his face in the photo, and flashed his now signature thumbs up.

Trump updated his Twitter cover photo with the picture from the meeting Friday evening.

Image: Twitter/Realdonaldtrump

Trump also visited Broward Health North hospital in Pompano Beach, where many of the victims received care after the shooting. On his official Instagram, a series of images posted in an album featured Trump wearing a large smile on his face, flashing a thumbs up in a photo with hospital staff.

The press asked Trump if he met with any victims at the hospital. Instead of speaking about the impact those meetings may have had on him as a president, as a human, Trump decided to fluff up the hospital.

“Fantastic hospital, and they have done an incredible job,” Trump boasted. “The doctor was amazing, we saw numerous people and incredible recovery. And first responders — everybody — the job they’ve done was in incredible.”

Trump then congratulated a doctor he was standing next to.

While yes, first responders and hospital staff should be thanked and praised for their hard work in wake of the shooting, congratulations here are completely tone deaf considering 17 people lost their lives in the attack. 

In any other presidency, this would be a time for mourning. But Trump is using it to boast and brag. 

Many were quick to criticize Trump for his demeanor on social media, with some pointing to Barack Obama’s reaction to the Sandy Hook massacre in December of 2012. In 2016, Obama also delivered a powerful and emotional speech on gun violence, in which he broke down crying

Obama’s official White House photographer, Pete Souza, who has made it his duty to criticize the Trump administration by way of his photography from the Obama era, uploaded a photo of Obama sitting alone in a classroom in Sandy Hook Elementary School. It captures the former president in a quiet moment after he met with families for hours, and before he attended a prayer vigil. 

While it often seems like President Trump’s actions couldn’t be more shocking, this type of behavior is disgusting, and the heavy criticism is merited. There’s a time for photo ops, and then there is time for mourning. This was not the moment for Trump to show off how great he’s making America.

America has a real problem, and Trump isn’t even trying to fake it.

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4 Hilarious Side Effects Of Living Next To Businesses

Living near industry has its pros and cons. Sure, the nuclear power plant means everybody in town has a steady job, but it’s also why little Suzy is her own nightlight. But even when they’re not poisoning water supplies or causing property values to go down, there are plenty of other, weirder ways businesses can turn neighborhoods into psychedelic hellscapes. For example …


The Viagra Factory Is (Reportedly) Giving Boners To All The Locals

Life is sweet in the Irish village of Ringaskiddy. The scenery is lovely, crime is low, and the weather is fairly nice for Irish standards. But still, being a Ringaskiddyite is hard living and hard work, and it gets harder with every breath you take. Why? Because there’s Viagra in the air.

Located in County Cork, Ringaskiddy is home to one of Pfizer’s pharmaceutical plants — specifically, the plant that makes most of the world’s supply of Viagra.

Pfizer IrelandPetition to change the name from Cork.

And according to locals, there’s often a stiff breeze of fumes from the factory that’ll put a spring in your step and a tipi in your pants. Medical professionals attest to the very visible effect of Pfizer’s local business. On a windy day, many a man (and dog) can be spotted walking around “in a state of sexual excitement.” And you know how the old adage goes: Where there’s smoke, there’s a bunch of raging erections.

Naturally, Pfizer insists the claims are complete baloney, stating that their “manufacturing processes have always been highly sophisticated as well as highly regulated.” The company maintains that airborne boner dust is nothing but a myth, and the entire town is merely enjoying a group placebo effect. Not that the locals mind either way. A Ringaskiddy woman describes the town as having become a sort of Mecca for men with erectile dysfunction. She’s also quick to mention that she’s never once been lonely in the years since her husband’s passing. In Ringaskiddy, love is always in the air. Or something close enough, at least.


Your Garage Doors Won’t Work If You Live Near A Military Base

If you live near a military base, it’s reasonable to expect certain minor inconveniences, like packed bars or the occasional tank double-parking in front of your driveway. Then there’s the slight discomfort from living less than a blast radius away from what army folks proudly call a “high-value target.” But if none of those are reason enough to stay put, the military has more high-tech ways of keeping you indoors.

As it turns out, if you live within about 15 miles of a base, you really shouldn’t bank on your garage door opener working very often. In 2013, some 500 Georgia homeowners near Fort Gordon found themselves frantically clicking a remote like their TV had gotten stuck on Bravo. Since 2011, the same thing has started happening all over the country, including to residents of Norfolk, Virginia, Puget Sound, and Orange County, California, to name a few. Still, of all the excuses to be late for work, not being able to get out of your garage because the biggest army in the world won’t let you is one of the better ones.

Ken Kively/The Los Angeles Times“Oh God of War, please accept this token of my humility and allow me to go to my budget meeting.”

What’s causing the problem? Radio waves. Since World War II, the 380-399.9 megahertz range has been reserved by the Department of Defense for military communications. However, the frequencies were so infrequently used that some garage door manufacturers started “borrowing” that band without the military ever noticing. This changed when bases started switching to the relatively new Enterprise Land Mobile Radio System, creating a lot of interference on these channels and, as a result, a lot of dented cars. Military base neighbors wanting smooth garage action can buy a $60 device that changes their frequency, while others get to deal with the military randomly revoking their driving privileges. Fortunately, since the military doesn’t use the frequency for anything super-duper top secret, you’re not going to accidentally launch any nukes by pressing the button for your garage … probably.


An IHOP Will Make Your Entire Building Smell Like Bacon

Bacon is a close third to air and water when it comes to human necessity. There are few things that aren’t made better with bacon, which is why we have things like bacon soap, bacon condoms, bacon ice cream, and bacon vodka to add variety to our bacon-filled lives. But while most of us (secular types) think there’s no such thing as “too much” bacon, a certain group of New Yorkers begs to differ.

We’ve all had one of those neighbors whose cooking is a bit too pungent for our tastes, but what if that neighbor is a restaurant that pumps out the flavor 24/7? Since an IHOP branch opened up on their ground floor, the tenants of a New York City Union Square building have faced a particularly crispy calamity. The smell of “rancid bacon” has been wafting through the complex, the greasy cloud going up as far as the 11th floor. And because this IHOP is open 24 hours a day, these people are basically living on top of a round-the-clock bacon smell generator.

Google MapsI Have Odor Problems.

In fact, it had gotten so bad that the tenants lodged multiple complaints with the Department of Buildings in hopes of ridding themselves of bacon once and for all. How much beef could these people possibly have with pork? Quite a bit. According to one resident, the smell can be so overwhelming that it “clouds her thinking.” She added, “I just imagine it: a film of crap on my furniture, on my rugs, on my walls … Is it in my hair? Do I smell like IHOP now?” Unfortunately, after their initial salvo against city hall, the story simply disappeared, and the 14th Street IHOP has been filling the skies with greasy smells without an end in sight. It just goes to show, you can’t fight Big Bacon.


Whiskey Distilleries Coat Everything Nearby In A Black Fungus

Living in a town with a distillery must be great. The economy thrives, it puts the town on the map, and you can get absolutely wasted on the cheap. Surely, there are no downsides of living in Booze City? But while the residents are constantly painting the town red, the booze itself has a nasty habit of painting the town black.

Munchies/ViceThe fungus amongus.

If you’re a whiskey enthusiast, you’ve probably heard of the so-called “angel’s share,” the portion of the liquor that escapes from barrels and rises to the heavens during the aging process. Sounds harmless, what with the angels getting wasted and all. But ethanol is more dense than air, so instead of drifting upward to inebriate the heavenly, it eventually slumps back down to Earth, probably looking for a Taco Bell that’s still open.

But by the time the ethanol drops down again, it will have had a boozy hookup with moisture in the air, giving birth to a bastard called Baudoinia, or whiskey fungus, which has a sticky, sooty quality. So when the ethanol does its walk of shame back to the ground, it brings the fungus with it, coating every surface within a couple of miles of the factory in in disgusting black film — even stainless steel. Sure, you can get rid of it with some soap, a pressure wash, and some light-to-medium swearing, but since it comes right back, what’s the point, really? And the black gunk isn’t just ugly; it damages the buildings and cars it gets its hands on. It really is like your one buddy who’s constantly wasted, right down to the yeast infection.

Munchies/ViceI didnt see the stop sign because of all the whiskey is actually a valid excuse here.

Why live by an IHOP when you can just order their pancake syrup online?

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For more, check out 6 Bizarre Realities Of Life In A Town Owned By Disney and They Shoot ‘The Walking Dead’ In My Town: 6 Weird Realities.

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The Problem Isnt Just Trump. Its Our Ignorant Electorate.

For many of us, mornings have taken on a certain nauseating sameness. We roll out from beneath the blankets and, before the scent of coffee has reached our nostrils, we are checking the news feeds for the latest semi-literate tweet coughed up by the ranting, traitorous squatter occupying the Oval Office.

The rest of the day is spent in a kind of horrified suspension, holding our breath, waiting for whatever outrage will inevitably belch forth from the White Houseonce a bastion of seriousness and decorum, now ground zero for the demise of western democracy. How many lies will Trump spew today? Which dictators will he suck up to? Will he smear a Gold Star family? Attack a woman who dares to call out his smarmy predations? Unveil a puerile, racist nickname for a Senator or member of his own cabinet?

As much as we loathe it, however sickening it might have become, every day seems all about him, a former game show host and real estate failure, a hawker of rot-gut vodka and bullshit degrees from a fraudulent University who once styled himself as the Donald. The cable news shows lead with his most recent flatulence, the op-ed pages brim with intimations of doom, late night comedians are having a field day.

He is the president and, thus, bears watching. But we would be mistaken to think that he is truly the center of our universe, a man with a plan, commanding the heights, directing the action.

Virulent as he may be, Donald J. Trump is a symptom not the disease. Without us, he would amount to nothing more than what he had always been before the bizzaro presidential election of 2016: a foppish narcissist desperate for any measure of affirmation; a joke; a nothing. He did not create his voters. They have been there all along, seething with sometimes justifiable anger and suffering their various insecurities. They created and enabled Trump. And make no mistake, in all their vulnerable humanity, they are us: Gullible, compliant, distracted, marinating in irony.

At root, we the people are the problem.

We are understandably reluctant to impugn the intelligence and integrity of our fellow citizens. It is arrogant, uncivil, bad form. Who are we, any of us, to hold ourselves superior? When Hillary Clinton referred to some Trump supporters as deplorables, she was roundly castigated on all sides. How dare she? Yet it is an uncomfortable reality that anywhere from a fifth to a third of our electorate can be fairly (if gently) described as low-information voters. If the results of numerous polls and questionnaires are to be trusted, they know very little about the world they inhabit and what they do know is often woefully incorrect.

Surveys conducted every two years by the National Science Foundation consistently demonstrate that slightly more than half of Americans reject the settled science concerning human evolution. They are not unaware that virtually all credible scientists accept the overwhelming evidence that we evolved from earlier species. They simply choose not to accept that consensus because it doesnt comport with their deeply held beliefs. Many also embrace the absurd notion that the earth is only six thousand years old. Astonishingly, in the early 21st century, around a quarter of our citizenry seems unaware that said earth revolves around the sun.

It is a mistake to regard concern about such ignorance as effete snobbery or elitist condescension. While misapprehensions about basic astronomy, earth science and biology may have little impact on these folks daily lives, does anyone actually believe that similarly uninformed views arent likely to affect their grasp of policies regarding, say, climate change? Income inequality? Gun violence? Immigration?

Profound knowledge gaps like the aforementioned reveal an inability to think critically and leave a person vulnerable to all manner of chicanery. We are all ignorant about many things. Dont get me started on my dismal grasp of mathematics! But the hallmark of a sound education is not glorying in what you think you know, but, instead, appreciating the vastness of what you dont know.

If ignorance is the key that opens the door for charlatans like Trump, improved education, whether in school or in the public square, would seem to provide an obvious solution. But here we confront the perverse Dunning-Kruger Effect identified by psychologistsessentially, the less we know, the more certain we become of our superior knowledge. We have also discovered that exposure to facts and evidence does not always have the expected impact. Many people, when confronted by irrefutable proof that some core belief is incorrect, dont change their minds but dig in their heels. What feels right to them must be right and no amount logic and reasoning will dissuade them. Emotion trumps evidence.

Not too long ago, I fell into conversation with a woman aboard an airplane. Our chat somehow turned to health care. She offered the opinion that people who couldnt afford health insurance didnt deserve medical services. Why should she pay for someones care when they were obviously too lazy to earn their own money?

Because Im my own kind of fool, I rose to the bait. Did that mean they should be allowed to die in the street? I wondered. Well, no, she said. That would be inhumane. They could always go to an emergency room. So she was willing to pay for their care, I observed, but only in the least efficient, most expensive manner. This gave her momentary pause, but she quickly regrouped, simply repeating her prior assertion: Why should she pay? I didnt ask who she planned to vote for in the then-upcoming presidential election, but given that she had also voiced the opinion that women were, by virtue of their gender, unqualified to be news anchors, Im guessing it wasnt Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein.

She is hardly the worst example of an unthinking voter. Bill Maher once invited onto his show former GM Executive Bob Lutz. One supposes that such a fellow has benefited from an adequate education and that hes open to reason. Yet, when the subject of climate change arose, Lutz denied it was happening. A bunch of nonsense as far as he was concerned.

As it happened, Maher had also invited Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, educator and Director of the Hayden Planetarium. Tyson patiently explained why Lutz was misinformed. The planet was warming. Humans were largely to blame. This is how we know.

You might expect an educated person to respond by at least engaging on the topic. Tyson was, after all, vastly more knowledgeable on the subject at hand. Had their roles been reversed, with the topic being cars, I have no doubt he would have deferred to the automaker, asking questions, trying to improve the state of his own knowledge. Not Lutz. You could see him shutting down before Tyson had even warmed to the topic (no pun intended). As Upton Sinclair famously put it, Its hard to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it.

Anyone who has watched the focus groups of Trump voters has seen this sorry dynamic played out again and again. Everything, no matter how tawdry or malicious, is excused or minimized. You get the feeling these folks would accept the sexual molestation of teenage girls as a trade-off for Neil Gorsuch. In fact, many did in supporting Roy Moore.

Welcome to the Post-Truth Era.

Much has been written about the impact social media and the internet in general have had on how people receive and absorb information. By now, we are all familiar with bots, trolls, phony scandals and the tendency of folks to hunker down in their own info-silos. The old adage that a lie is halfway round the world before the truth gets its socks on has never been more salient.

Consider the recent attacks on one of the young Parkland shooting survivors. A teenager who had just witnessed classmates being gunned down at his own school quickly discovered that speaking up for common-sense gun regulation resulted in vicious trolling and the viral lie that he was a paid crisis actor. This was similar to what befell the grieving families of the small children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. Imagine waking one morning in a state of searing grief over the violent death of your baby to discover that some odious prankster like Alex Jones is telling his gullible audience that the whole tragic incident was staged, that your child was actually a paid performer doused in artificial gore and posed in a gruesome tableaux of death.

That Jones and his ilk have not been thoroughly shamed and driven from the public sphere says a lot about our growing tolerance for vile nonsense.

Trump did not invent Fake News. The Big Lie has been the stock in trade of con men and tyrants since time immemorial. But he understands its value. Alternative facts as his lickspittle factotum, Kellyanne Conway infamously put it, has long been his metier. Hes a bullshitter, a phony and now hes our president.

This shouldnt have happened. But we let it happen, though Trump did have plenty of help

Unsurprisingly, the Fox propaganda machine and any number of right-wing radio ranters enthusiastically clambered aboard the Trump Train. They were abetted by many in the mainstream media who, mindful that Trump lured eyeballs to advertisers and too timid to call him out as the carnival barker he so obviously was, went along for the ride. A number of Republicans in Congress dismissed him at first. But when it became clear he had a shot at winning and that his devotees comprised at least half of their party, they scurried to adopt him as their useful idiot.

Its true that we are not all equally culpable. Roughly three million more people voted for Trumps chief opponent. But the right-minded among us didnt do enough to forestall the plainly looming disaster. The proof of that is the Trump presidency itself.

So, if we in our various incarnations are the problem, then what is the solution? Is there any way out? Wed better hope so. Whats certain is that its on us. We made a wreck of our government and its up to us to fix it.

There are positive signs:

A once compliant media has begun to take the gloves off. Genuine conservatives, outraged that their movement has been hijacked by philistines, are sounding the alarm. People are rising up and calling BS. For every Sean Hannity there is a Rachel Maddow, Jake Tapper or even Shepard Smith (at Fox News, no less!). For every Paul Ryan, there is a David Frum or Max Boot. Frothing crowds at CPAC are countered by the #MeToo movement and impressively eloquent teenagers fed up with politicians of any stripe who cower before the gun industry. On a good day, a John McCain or Jeff Flake will stand up to the cringing accommodationists in their own party. And, of course, Donald Trump himself, along with his corrupt lackeys, face a formidable foe in the person of Robert Mueller.

NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers recent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee should mark a turning point, though he merely confirmed what has been apparent for some time: that even as our nation is under attack from a Russia determined to subvert our democracy, the president has not directed any relevant agencies to defend the country. This is a violation of the oath Trump swore on inauguration day and smacks of treason. We have entered uncharted waters.

Whats clear is that we need to use all non-violent resources at our disposal to rid ourselves and our country of the dangerous infection spreading from the White House into our body politic. These are not normal times and our usual reflexes will no longer suffice.

Trump is a problem of our own creation. We must become the solution.

Ron Reagan is an author and political commentator who lives in Seattle and Arezzo, Tuscany.

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Disgusting! NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch Says Many In Media ‘Love Mass Shootings’!

It’s that time of year. The end of February marks Spring when a young man’s fancy turns to love. And when shady lobbyists speak openly to their right-wing allies.

Yep, the National Rifle Association has descended on the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual rally where all the worst Republicans can get together and talk about hating immigrants and the poor without fear of being disagreed with.

Loesch also went after the FBI, blaming them for “dropping the ball” on every mass shooting. Apparently she thinks the FBI are like car alarms that are just always there.

Basically, she’s just ready to blame anything or anyone but guns for mass shootings.

Her boss, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre made a surprise drop-in where he went even further, saying Democrats, whom he called secret socialists, and the media wanted to “exploit tragedy for political gain”:

“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”

There it is again. They are going all-in against the FBI.

It’s almost as if they’re in an adversarial position because the FBI is investigating whether their organization funneled Russian funds to help the Trump campaign.

[Image via YouTube.]

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Teen school shooting survivors are sending a passionate message Washington can’t ignore.

The adults have had their chance. Now it’s time to hear directly from kids about school shootings.

After the 18th confirmed school shooting in 2018, it can be hard to find new ways to confront how the previously unthinkable has become a regular part of our lives.

Lawmakers in Congress were already speaking of a “sense of resignation” following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, after recent massacres like that in Las Vegas failed to generate legislative action.

So the young survivors of Wednesday’s mass shooting took on that responsibility themselves, speaking out about the importance of gun safety.

“Some of our policymakers and some people need … to look in the mirror and take some action; because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die,” senior David Hogg, 17, said in an interview with CNN.

This is the first time we’ve seen school shooting survivors respond directly to lawmakers on social media.

And Hogg isn’t alone. After President Trump tweeted about the shootings, a number of fellow Douglas survivors took to Twitter to refute the idea that school shootings are purely a mental health issue.

These aren’t kids used as political props. They are smart teens with real thoughts.

Bringing kids into a political debate can be complicated, even when it’s for a message we agree with. But that’s not what happened here.

The student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took action on their own, sending a powerful message to lawmakers that they can no longer rest on the sidelines while children continue to die from gun violence.

“I want to show these people exactly what’s going on when these children are facing bullets flying through classrooms and students are dying trying to get an education,” Hogg told CNN. “That’s not OK, and that’s not acceptable, and we need to fix that.”

If the adults can’t take action, maybe they’ll listen to the survivors.

The grownups have been locked in a gun safety stalemate that shows no sign of letting up. Even common-sense changes — like expanded background checks — that have near-universal support stall in Congress, thanks, in large part, to the powerful lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association.

It’s easy to ignore people on the other side of the political aisle.

It’s not easy to ignore children who just watched their fellow classmates die while also facing down their own deaths.

Image via CNN.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) followed Hogg’s interview on CNN and said that Hogg and his classmate Kelsey Friend confronted him directly with a challenge:

“When they were leaving, I went to tell them how brave I thought they were, and [Hogg] looked at me and he said, ‘We want action.'”

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Atomwise, which uses AI to improve drug discovery, raises $45M Series A

Atomwise, which uses deep learning to shorten the process of discovering new drugs, has raised a $45 million Series A. The round was led by Monsanto Growth Ventures, Data Collective (DCVC) and B Capital Group. Baidu Ventures, Tencent and Dolby Family Ventures, which are all new investors in Atomwise, also participated, as well as returning investors Y Combinator, Khosla Ventures and DFJ.

This means Atomwise, which was founded in 2012, has now raised more than $51 million in funding. The company, which aims to reduce the amount of money and time researchers spend on finding compounds for medications, says it now has more than 50 molecular discovery programs. Atomwise’s technology is also being used to develop safer, more effective agricultural pesticides.

In a press statement, Monsanto Growth Ventures partner Dr. Kiersten Stead said “We chose to invest based on the impressive results we saw from Atomwise in our own hands. Atomwise was able to find promising compounds against crop protection targets that are important areas of focus for agrochemical R&D.”

Atomwise’s software analyzes simulations of molecules, reducing the time researchers need to spend synthesizing and testing compounds. The company says it currently screens more than 10 million compounds each day. Atomwise’s AtomNet system uses deep learning algorithms to analyze molecules and predict how they might act in the human body, including their potential efficacy as medication, toxicity and side effects, at an earlier stage than in the traditional drug discovery process.

In an email, Atomwise chief executive officer Dr. Abraham Heifets told TechCrunch that the company’s vision “is to become one of the most prolific and diverse life science research groups in the world, working at a scale that is truly unprecedented. This is a large Series A and we will use these resources to grow our technical and business organization. We may eventually find ourselves simulating hundreds of millions of compounds per day. The ultimate upshot is more shots on goal for the many diseases that urgently need new treatments.”

Lead optimization “has historically been the most expensive step in the pharma pipeline,” Heifets added, adding that it also has a very high failure rate, with “about two-thirds of projects failing to even make it to the clinic and it takes five and a half years to get that far.”

When Atomwise launched six years ago, its technology seemed almost like something out of science fiction. Now there is a roster of companies using artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze molecules and fix bottlenecks in the drug discovery process, including Recursion Pharmaceuticals, BenevolentAI, TwoXAR, Cyclica and Reverie Labs.

Heifets said one of Atomwise’s main advantages is the large number of projects it has worked on, which in turn improves its AI systems. The company’s clients include four of the top 10 biggest pharmaceutical companies in the United States, including Merck, Monsanto, more than 40 major research universities (Harvard, Duke, Stanford and Baylor College of Medicine among them) and biotech firms.

He added that Atomwise also differentiates in its focus.

“There are two distinct problems in drug discovery: biology and chemistry,” he said. “If you’re working on biology, you’re trying to decide which disease protein is the best one to target.  A lot of AI companies in drug discovery are working on this target identification problem. Once you’ve chosen a target, you can start working on chemistry problems: how to deliver a non-toxic molecule that can hit the chosen disease protein. Atomwise is focused on these chemistry problems; specifically, Atomwise invented the use of deep neural networks for structure-based drug design.”

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Warrantless surveillance law proves its time to take privacy into our own hands

The warrantless surveillance law, otherwise known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, gained mass attention back in 2013 when Edward Snowden leaked information that the NSA was using it to spy on Americans’ text messages, phone calls, emails and internet activity — all legally, and without warrants.

That bill has been passed by the U.S. Senate for another six years and has now been signed into law by President Trump — a further extension of what should be an Orwellian cliché but remains quite real.

Naturally, this has caused quite the uproar over not so much the intent of Section 702, but rather how this law could (or will) be interpreted. The act allows the NSA to monitor the communications of foreigners located outside of the U.S. to gather foreign intelligence — which is the law’s intended purpose.

These practices have already hurt our image abroad when it was discovered that the NSA spied on Angela Merkel and the former president of Brazil. However, the domestic use of the law rightfully has caused many to fear further overreaching of the NSA into the lives of American citizens.

And much of said data has reportedly been made available to different U.S. intelligence services.

“Because of these votes, broad NSA surveillance of the Internet will likely continue, and the government will still have access to Americans’ emails, chat logs, and browsing history without a warrant,” said David Ruiz, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Because of these votes, this surveillance will continue to operate in a dark corner, routinely violating the Fourth Amendment and other core constitutional protections.”

Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Michael Lee (R-UT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) agree, presenting a bipartisan letter to colleagues stating that “this bill allows an end-run on the Constitution by permitting information collected without a warrant to be used against Americans in domestic criminal investigations.”

This insidious law that allows such an overarching, predatory invasion of our personal lives has been given new life as quickly and quietly as possible. Privacy advocates are loudly publicizing their disgust — but the media has little time to discuss what amounts to a borderline limitless invasion of our privacy.

“Lawmakers have a responsibility to make sure Americans understand what the impact will be of the laws they pass,” Wyden wrote in The Cipher Brief. “Having support for the laws you pass is what makes a government legitimate.”

Section 702’s intended purpose is to protect American soldiers, keep U.S. decision-makers informed about the intentions of adversary nations and help federal agents detect and prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. However, the evaluation of 160,000 emails and instant messenger conversations collected under Section 702 between 2009 and 2012 (leaked by Snowden in 2013) showed that 90 percent of them were from online accounts that were not foreign surveillance targets, according to The Washington Post.

And nearly half of those belonged to U.S. citizens or residents. That’s tens of thousands of emails from regular people, collected without our approval, say-so or, indeed, knowledge.

This alone indicates that this law is in need of serious reform to protect the privacy of American citizens; those citizens deserve to understand what information the NSA is collecting from them.

It’s time to take this into our own hands. Privacy solutions and applications have been skyrocketing in demand, and with news that this law will likely prevail for another six years — as well as the recent scrapping of net neutrality — that demand is only going to increase as people seek to take their online security and privacy into their own hands.  

You also may say that this simply can’t happen to you — that such a world doesn’t exist in America, that your door is open and you have nothing to hide. I like to say that we have nothing to hide, but a lot to protect. Think about your health, wealth and communications with family; you probably don’t want a bunch of guys in a room reviewing everything you write to your doctor or your loved ones.

Modern society may seem impenetrable to such terrifying futures until you look at China’s social “proof” system. The social credit system, as the government calls it, refers to “raising the awareness for integrity and the level of credibility within society,” which is entirely based on big data from both private and public sources. By 2020, they hope to have an entire credit system based on the whims of private companies and how “self-restrained” citizens are online. This is to say nothing of the Identity Brokers that for a small fee likely have your name, date of birth, address and every crime you’ve committed.

Civilized society generally operates on not having the government censor their populace as has recently happened in Iran. But the most powerful censorship is that which is caused by the cages we build around us. As we watch ads track us around the internet, click to “like” something on Facebook and retweet content, someone, somewhere is watching. And with enough data, that can be used to cause us to act in a particular way. It can be used to subtly nudge us or brutally shove us.

We cannot have freedom without the right to privacy. That’s why the United Nations lists both Internet Freedom and Online Privacy as basic human rights. As we reflect on the future we want to build for ourselves and future generations, let’s work on a future of freedom and the right to privacy versus one of censorship and big brother looking over our shoulder.

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How To Have Better Sex, According To Science

The Conversation

One in 3 American adults do not get enough sleep. Sexual issues are also common, with as many as 45 percent of women and 31 percent of men having a concern about their sex life. While these might seem like distinct concerns, they are actually highly related.

How are sleep and sex related? I’ll state the obvious: We most commonly sleep and have sex in the same location – the bedroom. Less obvious but more important is that lack of sleep and lack of sex share some common underlying causes, including stress. Especially important, lack of sleep can lead to sexual problems and a lack of sex can lead to sleep problems. Conversely, a good night’s sleep can lead to a greater interest in sex, and orgasmic sex can result in a better night’s sleep.

I am a sex educator and researcher who has published several studies on the effectiveness of self-help books in enhancing sexual functioning. I have also written two sexual self-help books, both based in research findings. My latest book, “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – and How to Get It,” is aimed at empowering women to reach orgasm. More pertinent to the connection between sleep and sex, my first book, “A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex,” was written to help the countless women who say they are too exhausted to be interested in sex.

The effect of sleep on sex among women

The reason I wrote a book for women who are too tired for sex is because women are disproportionately affected by both sleep problems and by low sexual desire, and the relationship between the two is indisputable. Women are more likely than men to have sleep problems, and the most common sexual complaint that women bring to sex therapists and physicians is low desire. Strikingly, being too tired for sex is the top reason that women give for their loss of desire.

Conversely, getting a good night’s sleep can increase desire. A recent study found that the longer women slept, the more interested in sex they were the next day. Just one extra hour of sleep led to a 14 percent increase in the chances of having a sexual encounter the following day. Also, in this same study, more sleep was related to better genital arousal.

While this study was conducted with college women, those in other life stages have even more interrelated sleep and sex problems. Menopause involves a complicated interaction of biological and psychological issues that are associated with both sleep and sex problems. Importantly, a recent study found that among menopausal women, sleep problems were directly linked to sexual problems. In fact, sleep issues were the only menopausal symptom for which such a direct link was found.

Motherhood is great, but the demands of a new baby can exhaust a new mother. Sleep can become more appealing than sex as a result. FamVeld/

Interrelated sleep and sexual issues are also prevalent among mothers. Mothers of new babies are the least likely to get a good night’s sleep, mostly because they are caring for their baby during the night. However, ongoing sleep and sexual issues for mothers are often caused by having too much to do and the associated stress. Women, who are married with school aged children and working full time, are the most likely to report insomnia. Still, part-time working moms and moms who don’t work outside the home report problems with sleep as well.

While fathers also struggle with stress, there is evidence that stress and the resulting sleepless nights dampen women’s sexual desire more than they do men’s. Some of this is be due to hormones. Both insufficient sleep and stress result in the release of cortisol, and cortisol decreases testosterone. Testosterone plays a major role in the sex drive of women and men. Men have significantly more testosterone than women. So, thinking of testosterone as a tank of gas, the cortisol released by stress and lack of sleep might take a woman’s tank to empty, yet only decrease a man’s tank to half full.

The effect of sleep on sex among men

Even young men can lose interest in sex if they are sleep-deprived. Antonio Guillem/

Although lack of sleep and stress seems to affect women’s sexual functioning more than men’s, men still suffer from interrelated problems in these areas. One study found that, among young healthy men, a lack of sleep resulted in decreased levels of testosterone, the hormone responsible for much of our sex drive. Another study found that among men, sleep apnea contributed to erectile dysfunction and an overall decrease in sexual functioning. Clearly, among men, lack of sleep results in diminished sexual functioning.

I could not locate a study to prove this, as it stands to reason that the reverse is also true. That is, it seems logical that, as was found in the previously mentioned study among women, for men a better night’s sleep would also result in better sexual functioning.

The effect of sex on sleep

While sleep (and stress) have an effect on sex, the reverse is also true. That is, sex affects sleep (and stress). According to sex expert Ian Kerner, too little sex can cause sleeplessness and irritability. Conversely, there is some evidence that the stress hormone cortisol decreases after orgasm. There’s also evidence that oxytocin, the “love hormone” that is released after orgasm, results not only in increased feelings of connection with a partner, but in better sleep.

Additionally, experts claim that sex might have gender-specific effects on sleep. Among women, orgasm increases estrogen, which leads to deeper sleep. Among men, the hormone prolactin that is secreted after orgasm results in sleepiness.

Translating science into more sleep and more sex

It is now clear that a hidden cause of sex problems is sleeplessness and that a hidden cause of sleeplessness is sex problems. This knowledge can lead to obvious, yet often overlooked, cures for both problems. Indeed, experts have suggested that sleep hygiene can help alleviate sexual problems and that sex can help those suffering from sleep problems.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that both sleep hygiene suggestions and suggestions for enhanced sexual functioning have some overlap. For example, experts suggest sticking to a schedule, both for sleep and for sexual encounters. They also recommend decreasing smartphone usage, both before bed and when spending time with a partner. The bottom line of these suggestions is to make one’s bedroom an exclusive haven for the joys of both sleep and sex.

Laurie Mintz, Professor of Psychology, University of Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Scientists Discover The Root Of Autoimmune Diseases And How We Can Treat Them

Cases of autoimmune disease have risen in recent years but because it is frequently invisible and only fairly recently has there been a big effort to increase awareness of the condition (or, rather, multiple conditions), many sufferers have spent years of doctors’ trips and hospital visits before receiving a diagnosis. As one patient describes it in The New Yorker, “I got sick the way Hemingway says you go broke: ‘gradually and then suddenly.'”

There is, however, good reason to remain optimistic. A team of researchers from Yale University may have found the underlying cause as well as promising methods of treating the illness.

The paper, published in the journal Science, has linked autoimmune reactions to a bacteria in the gut called Enterococcus gallinarum. An autoimmune response, they say, can be triggered when the bacterium spontaneously migrates from the gut to other organs in the body, such as the spleen, liver, and lymph nodes.

An autoimmune disease is a chronic inflammatory condition caused by a person’s own immune cells, which mistakenly believes the body is under threat and so responds by attacking healthy tissues. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are just three of over a hundred conditions that fit into this category. Now, they can be added to the long list of illnesses linked to the health of gut bacteria.

During the study, the researchers genetically engineered mice to be susceptible to autoimmune diseases. They then analyzed the gut bacteria to identify those that caused inflammation or were involved in the production of antibodies known to promote autoimmune responses. The culprit was Enterococcus gallinarum.

The results were confirmed when they compared cultured liver cells of healthy people versus those of people with an autoimmune disease and found traces of Enterococcus gallinarum in the latter group.

Excitingly, they weren’t just able to identify the source, they developed effective ways to reduce autoimmune symptoms. By using antibiotics or a vaccine, the researchers dulled symptoms by suppressing the growth of Enterococcus gallinarum. It is hoped that this research can be developed into successful treatment options for certain autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune liver disease and systemic lupus.

“The vaccine against E. gallinarum was a specific approach, as vaccinations against other bacteria we investigated did not prevent mortality and autoimmunity,” Martin Kriegel, senior author, explained in a statement. “The vaccine was delivered through injection in muscle to avoid targeting other bacteria that reside in the gut.

“Treatment with an antibiotic and other approaches such as vaccination are promising ways to improve the lives of patients with autoimmune disease.”

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EPA head Scott Pruitt’s first-class travel is costing a fortune


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reportedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on the travel decisions of administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt is often booked on first or business-class flights, but federal regulations mandate that government employees like Pruitt should take every measure to select the least expensive method of travel that suits their security needs and gets them to their appointed location on time.

According to travel records obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project, Pruitt’s travel cost more than $90,000 last June alone, the Washington Post reports.

Pruitt took a first-class flight from Washington D.C. to New York City on June 5, 2017, that cost $1,641.43, according to the report. A similar flight on coach could cost as little as $293.

The documents claim that the increased flight costs are due to “unspecified security concerns,” the newspaper reported. Pruitt has round-the-clock security detail that costs taxpayers about $2 million per year in salaries, according to CNN. The EPA reportedly receives numerous threats to Pruitt’s safety, with 32 percent of received threats directed at Pruitt, compared with 9 percent of direct threats against his predecessor Gina McCarthy.

Pruitt’s travel and security spending are much larger than previous administrators Lisa Jackson and McCarthy.

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman defended Pruitt’s travel spending.“He’s trying to further positive environmental outcomes and achieve tangible environmental results” Bowman told the Post, adding that Pruitt is “hearing directly from people affected by the EPA’s regulatory overreach.”

According to travel vouchers, that means spending $2,903.56 on a trip to Colorado Springs to speak at the Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank meeting last May, and $1,980.34 to head to Tulsa for a tour of the Brainerd Chemical Co. a week later. 

While Pruitt does occasionally travel coach, the Post reports, he often stays at luxury hotels and chooses to fly Delta, despite the fact that the government contracts with certain airlines to fly specific routes. The EPA also declines to publicize Pruitt’s trips, again citing security concerns and breaking with previous administrations. Last June, Pruitt and his staff flew to New York from Cincinnati on a military jet to the tune of $36,068.50 to catch a flight to Rome. That flight cost $7,003.52 for Pruitt alone. According to the Post, Pruitt was joined by his aides and security detail for private tours of the Vatican before traveling to Bologna to meet with other environmental ministers.

Scrutiny of Pruitt’s lavish spending comes after revelations that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin flew on military jets multiple times over a period of seven months last year, costing taxpayers $800,000. It also comes after the departure of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price for his excessive travel expenditures.

You can read all of the Washington Post‘s report here. The Daily Dot has been collecting records of travel and costs of President Donald Trump‘s cabinet.

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Sensible Gun Reform: Florida Will Now Require Anyone Carrying Out A School Shooting To Be Accompanied By A Therapist To Ensure Theyre Not Mentally Ill

Sadly, many students and teachers in America today live in constant fear that their school could someday be attacked by a deranged gunman. But after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida lawmakers have finally stepped up to pass legislation that will protect students in their state from experiencing a similar nightmare: Florida is now requiring anyone carrying out a school shooting to be accompanied by a therapist to ensure they’re not mentally ill.

Thank God. With this regulation in place, the possibility of a troubled person using a gun to carry out horrific violence will no longer be a daily concern for Florida’s schoolchildren.

According to the new gun safety regulations, anyone who opens fire on students, teachers, or staff at a Florida school must now be chaperoned by a licensed counselor, who will periodically administer an array of verbal and visual tests to the shooter to confirm that he or she is not experiencing symptoms of any psychiatric disorder recognized by the DSM-5 for the duration of the armed rampage. The therapist accompanying the shooter will be required by law to stay at his side for the duration of the attack and to monitor him from the moment he opens fire on his classmates and teachers to the moment he turns his gun on his final victim.

If at any point while firing on their classmates, the active shooter exhibits symptoms of psychosis, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or any other form of mental illness, the therapist will be legally obligated to report the ongoing massacre to both local police and the FBI, who will begin taking steps to neutralize the situation and to ensure the unstable shooter no longer has access to firearms.

Well done, Florida. This is commonsense gun reform at its best.

“We all know how dangerous it can be if a mentally ill person gets their hands on a firearm, so from now on, we will do everything we can to make sure any Florida resident who decides to use a gun to murder children inside a school is of sound mind,” explained Florida Governor Rick Scott. “We are confident that having mental health professionals present for all future school shootings will help us ensure that anyone carrying out a school shooting in the future is able to pass a psychiatric background check.”

This is incredible news. After the horrifying bloodshed of the Parkland shooting, it’s inspiring to see government officials work so hard to give students and parents some much-needed peace of mind. In a country where gun violence has become an epidemic, this is the kind of sensible problem-solving we need. Let’s hope this legislation finds its way to other states to help keep American children safe from the unhinged people who could potentially hurt them.

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Spring ‘postponed’ as big freeze hits UK

Image copyright Cumbria Police
Image caption Snowfall is expected across the UK on Monday and Tuesday

Britain is set for the coldest February week in five years as freezing air arrives from Russia.

On Saturday temperatures fell as low as -5.5C in Anglesey, north Wales and the cold spell is expected to intensify from Sunday night into Monday.

The Met Office has issued an amber cold weather alert, which warns of increased health risks to vulnerable and elderly people.

It has also issued two yellow weather warnings for snow.

Snow showers are expected in large parts of the UK on Monday and Tuesday, which could cause travel delays and cancellations, power cuts and problems with mobile phone services.

BBC weather forecaster Gemma Plumb said snow showers will arrive in the east of the UK on Sunday night before pushing through to western areas by Tuesday. Showers could continue later into the week.

Image copyright Met Office
Image caption Two weather warnings have been issued for Monday and Tuesday

The heavier showers are expected on Monday night and Tuesday, she added.

Although there is a chance some areas could see between five and ten centimetres of snow, other areas may experience much lighter flurries.

The Met Office also issued a separate amber cold weather alert – the second most serious – warning that icy conditions and snow could disrupt the delivery of services and increase health risks to vulnerable patients.

The alert, issued for 09:00 on Friday until 08:00 on 1 March, warns the cold can be dangerous especially for the very young, very old or those with chronic diseases.

‘Spring postponed’

The Met Office said temperatures are set to be 1C in most urban areas on Monday – although other parts will not reach 0C. The cold weather could last for one or even two weeks.

Minimum temperatures next week are forecast for between -5C to -8C but it is expected to feel much colder.

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Media captionWhy will the UK be so cold next week? BBC weather explains

Met Office meteorologist Martin Bowles said: “The feels-like temperature will be 5C lower than what we see on the thermometer because of a strong easterly wind chill.”

The meteorological start of spring is Thursday, 1 March, when average temperatures are usually 10C in the south east and 9C in Manchester.

But this year 1 March will fall right in the middle of the cold spell, which is being caused by an area of high pressure moving north into Scandinavia drawing cold air in from the east.

Mr Bowles said: “It’s expected to stay cold all of next week. Spring will come eventually but it will be postponed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some parts of Scotland have already seen heavy snow this month

“We haven’t had temperatures that low in late February since 2013. It’s not unheard of. There are records that are lower than that.

“But it is quite unusual, particularly as it’s quite late in the season.”

Health risks

Public Health England said it is “critical” to keep an eye on anyone over 65, young children or people with heart or lung conditions.

Dr Thomas Waite, of the PHE Extreme Events team, said: “Cold temperatures, indoors and out, pose real health risks to many and every winter we know that thousands of people get ill and even die following exposure to cold conditions.

“Staying warm by heating your home to at least 18C can be crucial to stay well.”

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said on Friday that he had opened emergency homeless shelters ahead of the drop in temperature.

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Storm Emma to bring up to 50cm of snow

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Media captionLatest forecast for Storm Emma and “Beast from the East”

Parts of the UK are braced for up to 50cm of snow, as Storm Emma brings worsening conditions.

A highly unusual red weather warning for snow is in force for south-west England and south Wales until the early hours of Friday.

UK roads, railways and airports have been severely hit by snow for a third day, with thousands of schools shut.

Thousands of drivers across the country are stranded in freezing temperatures as police urge people not to travel.

The military has been called in to rescue drivers who have been stuck for several hours on the A31 in Hampshire as police declared it a major incident.

Avon and Somerset police have also declared a major incident over concerns medical staff were unable to get to their place of work.

Police said about 100 vehicles are stuck in snow on the A303 at Ilminster, Somerset, and a rescue operation is under way.

In Dorset, around 100 vehicles are stranded on the A35 near Puddletown and a coach full of elderly passengers have been stuck on roads in Northumbria for eight hours, police said.

The Met Office has 11 live severe weather warnings for snow, ice and wind in place for the UK. The final warning is in place until 23:55 GMT on Monday.

On Thursday, a seven-year-old girl died after a car crashed into a house in Looe, Cornwall.

In Leeds, a 75-year-old woman was found dead in a snowy street. She was found partially hidden beneath a car in the Farsley area of the city.

Meanwhile, in the south, a 46-year-old man died in a road crash after a collision with a lorry in icy conditions on the A34 near Tot Hill services in Berkshire.

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Media captionRiver Chelmer at Maldon in Essex freezes over

Earlier, a woman gave birth to a baby girl in a car on the roadside in snowy County Durham.

National Grid says there may not be enough gas to meet demand in the UK.

If suppliers cannot provide more gas, industry, large businesses and gas-fired power stations will be asked to use less, but domestic consumers would only be affected as a last resort.

Children in south Wales, southern England and Scotland were off on a snow day on Thursday, as thousands of schools closed.

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Media caption‘Legend’ snow-clearing Cambridgeshire farmers saluted

Several sports fixtures have been disrupted by weather conditions. Four Super League rugby league have been postponed and the Premier League Darts in Exeter has been cancelled.

Meanwhile, an NHS trust in Leeds said the public response had been “wonderful” after it appealed for people with 4×4 cars to drive health workers to visit patients.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Council workers in North Yorkshire just about managed to complete a road inspection
Image copyright PA
Image caption A woman clears her driveway in Glasgow
Image copyright PA
Image caption While cars battled against the conditions to be seen on the A192 in Northumberland

A red alert for snow in Scotland – the country’s first- has been lifted but an amber alert remains in place.

On Thursday evening, troops were deployed to transport 200 critical care hospital workers to and from their shifts at two hospitals in Edinburgh.

More than 300 people were stranded on a motorway in Scotland in freezing temperatures overnight on Wednesday – some for 20 hours.

Some 15 law courts across Scotland have cancelled trials on Friday while the high winds have blown panels off the roof of the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged people there not to travel, while Wales’ transport secretary has also warned against driving.

Blizzards, biting winds and significant travel disruption are also affecting southern, western and central England, parts of Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is the third day of disruption caused by heavy snowfall, with reports of “near zero visibility” on some roads in Cumbria.

In Devon and Cornwall, police have warned drivers that most minor roads are “impassable”.

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Media captionFun in the snow

By early evening the RAC had reported 8,000 breakdowns across the UK with the West Midlands its busiest region.

Meanwhile, hundreds of homes have been left without power across the UK. On Thursday evening Western Power Distribution, which serves the Midlands, Wales and the south west, said 1,300 homes had power cuts, although not all were weather-related.

The problems for travellers may not be over by the end of this evening with Arriva Trains Wales cancelling several of its services and suspending many others on Friday.

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Media captionCar has near miss with bus in Edinburgh

Thousands of drivers trying to get home have been stuck for several hours.

On the M27 in Hampshire motorists have been at a standstill for over five hours while police have declared a major incident on the A31 in the New Forest and called on troops to help rescue stranded motorists.

Highways England said efforts are under way to rescue drivers stuck on the M62, which has been partly closed between Rochdale and Huddersfield.

Police forces across the UK have repeatedly told people to only travel if necessary.

Superintendent Mark Pannone from Cumbria Police said the amount of snowfall was abnormal, adding: “This adverse weather is set to be with us for at least the next 48 hours.

“Many roads are hazardous and so I state again, please do not drive unless you absolutely have to.”

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Media captionNicola Lee, who was stranded overnight on the M80, told the BBC it was like sitting in a car park

What is happening with the trains?

Across the UK, more than 20 rail operators are running a reduced service.

In London, Paddington Station was closed for nearly three hours due to severe weather conditions, and in Kent 50 stations are closed.

National Rail is reporting mass disruption in the South East, Scotland, north-west England and the South West.

  • Virgin Trains’ west coast service to and from Scotland has not been running since mid morning. Trains to Edinburgh are still cancelled and passengers on east coast routes are urged not to travel until Saturday
  • Arriva Trains Wales has suspended some services all day on Friday, including trains between Cardiff and Manchester. Some routes are suspended until at least 13:00 while others are running on a reduced timetable
  • Heathrow Express services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport are running less frequently
  • East Midlands Trains are unable to run any trains between Nottingham and Skegness
  • There are numerous delays and cancellations on the Northern network, with all trains through Huddersfield delayed by up to 50 minutes or cancelled
  • ScotRail ran limited services until 19:00 GMT between Edinburgh and Glasgow, Glasgow Central and Kilmarnock and Glasgow Central and Ayr. There will be no trains in the amber warning area during the Friday morning peak
  • No CrossCountry services will run in Scotland on Friday

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Media captionHomeless in the snow: “I thought I would die sleeping out”

How are the airports affected?

Airports across Britain are being affected by the cold weather, and the knock-on effect of other terminals across the UK and Europe cancelling flights.

  • Glasgow Airport: The airport will stay closed for the rest of Thursday. More than 200 passengers spent the night in the terminal
  • Edinburgh Airport: The airport will fully close from 18:00 GMT to give staff time to prepare for Friday’s conditions
  • Dublin Airport: All flights have been suspended until Saturday
  • Cardiff Airport: Flybe has cancelled flights after 15:00 GMT due to the red weather warning in south Wales
  • East Midlands Airport: The runway has reopened after being closed because of the snow but it warns passengers of cancellations and delays
  • Heathrow Airport: Some flights have been cancelled, with short-haul flights to airports including Dublin and Glasgow severely affected
  • Gatwick Airport: About 50 of the 350 flights due to depart from the terminal have been cancelled and there are also significant delays to other flights. Customers are advised to check before travelling
  • City Airport: There are multiple cancellations and delays at the airport, mainly affecting Irish and internal flights

What is the forecast?

The Met Office says the cold weather could last into next week and possibly the following week.

BBC Weather’s Ben Rich predicted “blizzard conditions” by Thursday night across south-west England, Wales and parts of the Midlands.

He said a “biting easterly wind” will make it feel like -11C (12F) in Birmingham and Cardiff – on what is the first day of meteorological spring.

There is potential for up to 50cm (19.6 inches) of snow over parts of Dartmoor and Exmoor, the Met Office added, with up to 20cm (7.8 inches) falling in southern England, Wales and the West Midlands.

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“Ill Do It!”: 4-Yr-Old Hears Twin Brothers Are Dying, Tells Mom Hell Donate His Own Bone Marrow to Save Them

Bone marrow donation can be a painful and strenuous process for a full-grown adult, and much more so for a mere child. But that wasn’t enough to scare brave 4-year-old Michael Pownall from donating his bone marrow to save his twin baby brothers.

Five-month-old Santino and Giovanni were born prematurely at 33 weeks last October, after which they spent five long weeks in the NICU.

After only 10 days at home, the baby brothers were soon hospitalized again, when the Pownalls received the devastating news that they both tested positive for Chronic Granulomatous Disease (CGD). The rare immune disorder increases the body’s susceptibility to infections that are caused by certain fungi and bacteria.

CGD makes it much more difficult to fight infections that most healthy immune systems can ward off with ease. Amidst the deadliest flu season we’ve seen in years (claiming lives of those in perfect health), Santino and Giovanni’s lives were in even greater danger.

Without a bone marrow transplant, they may never get the chance to live a healthy, normal life.

The Pownalls are all too familiar with CGD, as their oldest son Dominick had also been diagnosed with the disease when he was younger. Now considered “cured” from the stem cell transplant he received at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) eight years ago, Dominick is back to full health. The Pownalls knew the same transplant would be the only hope for their youngest sons as well.

Amazingly, their middle child, 4-year-old Michael, turned out to be a perfect sibling bone-marrow match for both brothers.

“We told Michael he was the match and asked him if he would help us save his brothers’ lives,” Robin told Love What Matters. “Michael said, ‘I’m gonna give them with my bone marrow!’ I explained the entire process with him, how it may hurt, and that he will be getting a pretty large needle. He said, ‘Is it going to save them?’ We said ‘yes’ and he said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it then!’”


And he’s been resolute in his decision ever since! This brave older brother is sticking by his guns to endure the life-saving procedure, even though he was terrified as could be.

“He was scared initially as anyone would be,” said Robin. “But his courage is far more than one of a 4-year-old.”

“We are currently inpatient at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,” she shared. “The twins are undergoing chemotherapy and will receive their transplant from their superhero brother Michael on March 8, 2018.”


“We are transferred to TRANSPLANT and everything is going according to plan!” Robin wrote in a Facebook update this week. “I’m a nervous wreck! Please pray and keep us close to your hearts.”

As for Michael, this proud mama couldn’t be more impressed with her son’s strength and selflessness throughout the process:

“Michael is proud to be saving his twin brothers lives. He is so brave, he leaves his arm out for the nurse to draw his blood. He knows what he’s about to do. It’s truly inspirational. He gives me strength just watching how strong he is…

I am so scared and nervous for all three of my boys, but when I look into their eyes, I see strength. I know everything is going to be okay.”

Read Next On FaithIt
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25+ Photos Of Dogs Before & After Their Adoption That Will Melt Your Heart

For us, adopting a pet is a huge responsibility, but it’s the best thing that can happen to shelter animals. To prove the power of a loving home, proud owners from all over the world are sharing photos of their new dogs before & after they were rescued. Bored Panda has decided to compile these heartwarming images into a list, and it will clear any doubts whether or not it’s worth picking up a pup from a kennel.

From sad faces in cramped cells to wide smiles on king size beds, these k9s found happiness in their new homes and can’t hide their emotions. You can understand the difference adoption makes to a shelter pet only if you see one, so scroll down and meet the lucky ones!

The town thats found a potent cure for illness community | George Monbiot

Frome in Somerset has seen hospital admissions fall since it began to tackle isolation. There are lessons for the rest of the country, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot

It could, if the results stand up, be one of the most dramatic medical breakthroughs of recent decades. It could transform treatment regimes, save lives, and save health services a fortune. Is it a drug? A device? A surgical procedure? No, its a newfangled intervention called community. This week the results from a trial in the Somerset town of Frome are published informally, in the magazine Resurgence& Ecologist. (A scientific paper has been submitted to a medical journal and is awaiting peer review). We should be cautious about embracing data before it is published in the academic press, and must always avoid treating correlation as causation. But this shouldnt stop us feeling a shiver of excitement about the implications, if the figures turn out to be robust and the experiment can be replicated.

What this provisional data appears to show is that when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly. While across the whole of Somerset emergency hospital admissions rose by 29% during the three years of the study, in Frome they fell by 17%. Julian Abel, a consultant physician in palliative care and lead author of the draft paper, remarks: No other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.

Frome is a remarkable place, run by an independent town council famous for its democratic innovation. Theres a buzz of sociability, a sense of common purpose and a creative, exciting atmosphere that make it feel quite different from many English market towns, and for that matter, quite different from the buttoned-down, dreary place I found when I first visited, 30 years ago.

The Compassionate Frome project was launched in 2013 by Helen Kingston, a GP there. She kept encountering patients who seemed defeated by the medicalisation of their lives: treated as if they were a cluster of symptoms rather than a human being who happened to have health problems. Staff at her practice were stressed and dejected by what she calls silo working.

So, with the help of the NHS group Health Connections Mendip and the town council, her practice set up a directory of agencies and community groups. This let them see where the gaps were, which they then filled with new groups for people with particular conditions. They employed health connectors to help people plan their care, and most interestingly trained voluntary community connectors to help their patients find the support they needed.

Sometimes this meant handling debt or housing problems, sometimes joining choirs or lunch clubs or exercise groups or writing workshops or mens sheds (where men make and mend things together). The point was to break a familiar cycle of misery: illness reduces peoples ability to socialise, which leads in turn to isolation and loneliness, which then exacerbates illness.

This cycle is explained by some fascinating science, summarised in a recent paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Chemicals called cytokines, which function as messengers in the immune system and cause inflammation, also change our behaviour, encouraging us to withdraw from general social contact. This, the paper argues, is because sickness, during the more dangerous times in which our ancestral species evolved, made us vulnerable to attack. Inflammation is now believed to contribute to depression. People who are depressed tend to have higher cytokine levels.

But, while separating us from society as a whole, inflammation also causes us to huddle closer to those we love. Which is fine unless, like far too many people in this age of loneliness, you have no such person. One study suggests that the number of Americans who say they have no confidant has nearly tripled in two decades. In turn, the paper continues, people without strong social connections, or who suffer from social stress (such as rejection and broken relationships), are more prone to inflammation. In the evolutionary past, social isolation exposed us to a higher risk of predation and sickness. So the immune system appears to have evolved to listen to the social environment, ramping up inflammation when we become isolated, in the hope of protecting us against wounding and disease. In other words, isolation causes inflammation, and inflammation can cause further isolation and depression.

Remarkable as Fromes initial results appear to be, they shouldnt be surprising. A famous paper published in PLOS Medicine in 2010 reviewed 148 studies, involving 300,000 people, and discovered that those with strong social relationships had a 50% lower chance of death across the average study period (7.5 years) than those with weak connections. The magnitude of this effect, the paper reports, is comparable with quitting smoking. A celebrated study in 1945 showed that children in orphanages died through lack of human contact. Now we know that the same thing can apply to all of us.

Dozens of subsequent papers reinforce these conclusions. For example, HIV patients with strong social support have lower levels of the virus than those without. Women have better chances of surviving colorectal cancer if they have strong connections. Young children who are socially isolated appear more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Most remarkably, older patients with either one or two chronic diseases do not have higher death rates than those who are not suffering from chronic disease as long as they have high levels of social support.

In other words, the evidence strongly suggests that social contact should be on prescription, as it is in Frome. But here, and in other countries, health services have been slow to act on such findings. In the UK we have a minister for loneliness, and social isolation is an official health priority. But the silo effect, budget cuts and an atmosphere of fear and retrenchment ensure that precious little has been done.

Helen Kingston reports that patients who once asked, What are you going to do about my problem? now tell her, This is what Im thinking of doing next. They are, in other words, no longer a set of symptoms, but people with agency. This might lead, as the preliminary results suggest, to fewer emergency admissions, and major savings to the health budget. But even if it doesnt, the benefits are obvious.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

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Yes, bacon really is killing us

The long read: Decades worth of research proves that chemicals used to make bacon do cause cancer. So how did the meat industry convince us it was safe?

There was a little cafe I used to go to that did the best bacon sandwiches. They came in a soft and pillowy white bap. The bacon, thick-cut from a local butcher, was midway between crispy and chewy. Ketchup and HP sauce were served in miniature jars with the sandwich, so you could dab on the exact amount you liked. That was all there was to it: just bread and bacon and sauce. Eating one of these sandwiches, as I did every few weeks, with a cup of strong coffee, felt like an uncomplicated pleasure.

And then, all of a sudden, the bacon sandwich stopped being quite so comforting. For a few weeks in October 2015, half the people I knew were talking about the news that eating bacon was now a proven cause of cancer. You couldnt miss the story: it was splashed large in every newspaper and all over the web. As one journalist wrote in Wired, Perhaps no two words together are more likely to set the internet aflame than BACON and CANCER. The BBC website announced, matter-of-factly, that Processed meats do cause cancer, while the Sun went with Banger out of Order and Killer in the Kitchen.

The source of the story was an announcement from the World Health Organization that processed meats were now classified as a group 1 carcinogen, meaning scientists were certain that there was sufficient evidence that they caused cancer, particularly colon cancer. The warning applied not just to British bacon but to Italian salami, Spanish chorizo, German bratwurst and myriad other foods.

Health scares are ten-a-penny, but this one was very hard to ignore. The WHO announcement came on advice from 22 cancer experts from 10 countries, who reviewed more than 400 studies on processed meat covering epidemiological data from hundreds of thousands of people. It was now possible to say that eat less processed meat, much like eat more vegetables, had become one of the very few absolutely incontrovertible pieces of evidence-based diet advice not simply another high-profile nutrition fad. As every news report highlighted, processed meat was now in a group of 120 proven carcinogens, alongside alcohol, asbestos and tobacco leading to a great many headlines blaring that bacon was as deadly as smoking.

The WHO advised that consuming 50g of processed meat a day equivalent to just a couple of rashers of bacon or one hotdog would raise the risk of getting bowel cancer by 18% over a lifetime. (Eating larger amounts raises your risk more.) Learning that your own risk of cancer has increased from something like 5% to something like 6% may not be frightening enough to put you off bacon sandwiches for ever. But learning that consumption of processed meat causes an additional 34,000 worldwide cancer deaths a year is much more chilling. According to Cancer Research UK, if no one ate processed or red meat in Britain, there would be 8,800 fewer cases of cancer. (That is four times the number of people killed annually on Britains roads.)

The news felt especially shocking because both ham and bacon are quintessentially British foods. Nearly a quarter of the adult population in Britain eats a ham sandwich for lunch on any given day, according to data from 2012 gathered by researchers Luke Yates and Alan Warde. To many consumers, bacon is not just a food; it is a repository of childhood memories, a totem of home. Surveys indicate that the smell of frying bacon is one of our favourite scents in the UK, along with cut grass and fresh bread. To be told that bacon had given millions of people cancer was a bit like finding out your granny had been secretly sprinkling arsenic on your morning toast.

Vegetarians might point out that the bacon sandwich should never have been seen as comforting. It is certainly no comfort for the pigs, most of whom are kept in squalid, cramped conditions. But for the rest of us, it was alarming to be told that these beloved foods might be contributing to thousands of needless human deaths. In the weeks following news of the WHO report, sales of bacon and sausages fell dramatically. British supermarkets reported a 3m drop in sales in just a fortnight. (It was very detrimental, said Kirsty Adams, the product developer for meat at Marks and Spencer.)

But just when it looked as if this may be #Bacongeddon (one of many agonised bacon-related hashtags trending in October 2015), a second wave of stories flooded in. Their message was: panic over. For one thing, the analogy between bacon and smoking was misleading. Smoking tobacco and eating processed meat are both dangerous, but not on the same scale. To put it in context, around 86% of lung cancers are linked to smoking, whereas it seems that just 21% of bowel cancers can be attributed to eating processed or red meat. A few weeks after publishing the report, the WHO issued a clarification insisting it was not telling consumers to stop eating processed meat.

Meanwhile, the meat industry was busily insisting that there was nothing to see here. The North American Meat Institute, an industry lobby group, called the report dramatic and alarmist overreach. A whole tranche of articles insisted in a commonsense tone that it would be premature and foolish to ditch our meaty fry-ups just because of a little cancer scare.

Nearly three years on, it feels like business as usual for processed meats. Many of us seem to have got over our initial sense of alarm. Sales of bacon in the UK are buoyant, having risen 5% in the two years up to mid-2016. When I interviewed a product developer for Sainsburys supermarket last year, she said that one of the quickest ways to get British consumers to try a new product now was to add chorizo to it.

And yet the evidence linking bacon to cancer is stronger than ever. In January, a new large-scale study using data from 262,195 British women suggested that consuming just 9g of bacon a day less than a rasher could significantly raise the risk of developing breast cancer later in life. The studys lead author, Jill Pell from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at Glasgow University, told me that while it can be counterproductive to push for total abstinence, the scientific evidence suggests it would be misleading for health authorities to set any safe dose for processed meat other than zero.

The real scandal of bacon, however, is that it didnt have to be anything like so damaging to our health. The part of the story we havent been told including by the WHO is that there were always other ways to manufacture these products that would make them significantly less carcinogenic. The fact that this is so little known is tribute to the power of the meat industry, which has for the past 40 years been engaged in a campaign of cover-ups and misdirection to rival the dirty tricks of Big Tobacco.

How do you choose a pack of bacon in a shop, assuming you are a meat eater? First, you opt for either the crispy fat of streaky or the leanness of back. Then you decide between smoked or unsmoked each version has its passionate defenders (I am of the unsmoked persuasion). Maybe you seek out a packet made from free-range or organic meat, or maybe your budget is squeezed and you search for any bacon on special offer. Either way, before you put the pack in your basket, you have one last look, to check if the meat is pink enough.

Since we eat with our eyes, the main way we judge the quality of cured meats is pinkness. Yet it is this very colour that we should be suspicious of, as the French journalist Guillaume Coudray explains in a book published in France last year called Cochonneries, a word that means both piggeries and rubbish or junk food. The subtitle is How Charcuterie Became a Poison. Cochonneries reads like a crime novel, in which the processed meat industry is the perpetrator and ordinary consumers are the victims.

The pinkness of bacon or cooked ham, or salami is a sign that it has been treated with chemicals, more specifically with nitrates and nitrites. It is the use of these chemicals that is widely believed to be the reason why processed meat is much more carcinogenic than unprocessed meat. Coudray argues that we should speak not of processed meat but nitro-meat.

Prosciutto di Parma has been produced without nitrates since 1993. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

Pure insane crazy madness is how Coudray described the continuing use of nitrates and nitrites in processed meats, in an email to me. The madness, in his view, is that it is possible to make bacon and ham in ways that would be less carcinogenic. The most basic way to cure any meat is to salt it either with a dry salt rub or a wet brine and to wait for time to do the rest. Coudray notes that ham and bacon manufacturers claim this old-fashioned way of curing isnt safe. But the real reason they reject it is cost: it takes much longer for processed meats to develop their flavour this way, which cuts into profits.

There is much confusion about what processed meat actually means, a confusion encouraged by the bacon industry, which benefits from us thinking there is no difference between a freshly minced lamb kofta and a pizza smothered in nitrate-cured pepperoni. Technically, processed meat means pork or beef that has been salted and cured, with or without smoking. A fresh pound of beef mince isnt processed. A hard stick of cured salami is.

The health risk of bacon is largely to do with two food additives: potassium nitrate (also known as saltpetre) and sodium nitrite. It is these that give salamis, bacons and cooked hams their alluring pink colour. Saltpetre sometimes called sal prunella has been used in some recipes for salted meats since ancient times. As Jane Grigson explains in Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery, saltpetre was traditionally used when brining hams to give them an attractive rosy appearance when otherwise it would be a murky greyish brown.

In earlier centuries, bacon-makers who used saltpetre did not understand that it converts to nitrite as the meat cures. It is this nitrite that allows the bacteria responsible for cured flavour to emerge quicker, by inhibiting the growth of other bacteria. But in the early 20th century, the meat industry found that the production of cured meats could be streamlined by adding sodium nitrite to the pork in pure form. In trade journals of the 1960s, the firms who sold nitrite powders to ham-makers spoke quite openly about how the main advantage was to increase profit margins by speeding up production. One French brand of sodium nitrite from the 60s was called Vitorose or quick-pink.

Nitro-chemicals have been less of a boon to consumers. In and of themselves, these chemicals are not carcinogenic. After all, nitrate is naturally present in many green vegetables, including celery and spinach, something that bacon manufacturers often jubilantly point out. As one British bacon-maker told me, Theres nitrate in lettuce and no one is telling us not to eat that!

But something different happens when nitrates are used in meat processing. When nitrates interact with certain components in red meat (haem iron, amines and amides), they form N-nitroso compounds, which cause cancer. The best known of these compounds is nitrosamine. This, as Guillaume Coudray explained to me in an email, is known to be carcinogenic even at a very low dose. Any time someone eats bacon, ham or other processed meat, their gut receives a dose of nitrosamines, which damage the cells in the lining of the bowel, and can lead to cancer.

You would not know it from the way bacon is sold, but scientists have known nitrosamines are carcinogenic for a very long time. More than 60 years ago, in 1956, two British researchers called Peter Magee and John Barnes found that when rats were fed dimethyl nitrosamine, they developed malignant liver tumours. By the 1970s, animal studies showed that small, repeated doses of nitrosamines and nitrosamides exactly the kind of regular dose a person might have when eating a daily breakfast of bacon were found to cause tumours in many organs including the liver, stomach, oesophagus, intestines, bladder, brain, lungs and kidneys.

Just because something is a carcinogen in rats and other mammals does not mean it will cause cancer in humans, but as far back as 1976, cancer scientist William Lijinsky argued that we must assume that these N-nitroso compounds found in meats such as bacon were also carcinogens for man. In the years since, researchers have gathered a massive body of evidence to lend weight to that assumption. In 1994, to take just one paper among hundreds on nitrosamines and cancer, two American epidemiologists found that eating hotdogs one or more times a week was associated with higher rates of childhood brain cancer, particularly for children who also had few vitamins in their diets.

In 1993, Parma ham producers in Italy made a collective decision to remove nitrates from their products and revert to using only salt, as in the old days. For the past 25 years, no nitrates or nitrites have been used in any Prosciutto di Parma. Even without nitrate or nitrite, the Parma ham stays a deep rosy-pink colour. We now know that the colour in Parma ham is totally harmless, a result of the enzyme reactions during the hams 18-month ageing process.

Slow-cured, nitrate-free, artisan hams are one thing, but what about mass-market meats? Eighteen months would be a long time to wait on hotdogs, as the food science expert Harold McGee comments. But there have always been recipes for nitrate-free bacon using nothing but salt and herbs. John Gower of Quiet Waters Farm, a pork producer who advises many British manufacturers of cured meats, confirms that nitrate is not a necessary ingredient in bacon: Its generally accepted that solid muscle products, as opposed to chopped meat products like salami, dont require the addition of nitrate for safety reasons.

Bacon is proof, if it were needed, that we cling to old comforts long after they have been proven harmful. The attachment of producers to nitrates in bacon is mostly cultural, says Gower. Bacon cured by traditional methods without nitrates and nitrites will lack what Gower calls that hard-to-define tang, that delicious almost metallic taste that makes bacon taste of bacon to British consumers. Bacon without nitrates, says Gower, is nothing but salt pork.

Given the harm of nitro-meat has been known for so long, the obvious question is why more has not been done to protect us from it. Corinna Hawkes, a professor of Food Policy at City University in London, has been predicting for years that processed meats will be the next sugar a food so harmful that there will be demands for government agencies to step in and protect us. Some day soon, Hawkes believes, consumers will finally wake up to the clear links between cancer and processed meat and say Why didnt someone tell me about this?

The most amazing thing about the bacon panic of 2015 was that it took so long for official public health advice to turn against processed meat. It could have happened 40 years earlier. The only time that the processed meat industry has looked seriously vulnerable was during the 1970s, a decade that saw the so-called war on nitrates in the US. In an era of Ralph Nader-style consumer activism, there was a gathering mood in favour of protecting shoppers against bacon which one prominent public health scientist called the most dangerous food in the supermarket. In 1973, Leo Freedman, the chief toxicologist of the US Food and Drug Administration, confirmed to the New York Times that nitrosamines are a carcinogen for humans although he also mentioned that he liked bacon as well as anybody.

The US meat industry realised it had to act fast to protect bacon against the cancer charge. The first attempts to fight back were simply to ridicule the scientists for over-reacting. In a 1975 article titled Factual look at bacon scare, Farmers Weekly insisted that a medium-weight man would have to consume more than 11 tonnes of bacon every single day to run the faintest risk of cancer. This was an outrageous fabrication.

But soon the meat lobby came up with a cleverer form of diversion. The AMI the American Meat Institute started to make the argument that the nitrate was only there for the consumers own safety, to ward off botulism a potentially fatal toxin sometimes produced by poorly preserved foods. The scientific director of the AMI argued that a single cup of botulism would be enough to wipe out every human on the planet. So, far from harming lives, bacon was actually saving them.

In 1977, the FDA and the US Department of Agriculture gave the meat industry three months to prove that nitrate and nitrite in bacon caused no harm. Without a satisfactory response, Coudray writes, these additives would have to be replaced 36 months later with non-carcinogenic methods. The meat industry could not prove that nitrosamines were not carcinogenic because it was already known that they were. Instead, the argument was made that nitrates and nitrites were utterly essential for the making of bacon, because without them bacon would cause thousands of deaths from botulism. In 1978, in response to the FDAs challenge, Richard Lyng, director of the AMI, argued that nitrites are to processed meat as yeast is to bread.

The meat industrys tactics in defending bacon have been right out of the tobacco industrys playbook, according to Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. The first move is: attack the science. By the 1980s, the AMI was financing a group of scientists based at the University of Wisconsin. These meat researchers published a stream of articles casting doubt on the harmfulness of nitrates and exaggerating the risk from botulism of non-nitrated hams.

Does making ham without nitrite lead to botulism? If so, it is a little strange that in the 25 years that Parma ham has been made without nitrites, there has not been a single case of botulism associated with it. Almost all the cases of botulism from preserved food which are extremely rare have been the result of imperfectly preserved vegetables, such as bottled green beans, peas and mushrooms. The botulism argument was a smokescreen. The more that consumers could be made to feel that the harmfulness of nitrate and nitrite in bacon and ham was still a matter of debate, the more they could be encouraged to calm down and keep buying bacon.

A bacon sandwich at a diner in Michigan. Photograph: Molly Riley/Reuters

The botulism pretext was very effective. The AMI managed to get the FDA to keep delaying its three-month ultimatum on nitrites until a new FDA commissioner was appointed in 1980 one more sympathetic to hotdogs. The nitrite ban was shelved. The only concession the industry had made was to limit the percentage of nitrites added to processed meat and to agree to add vitamin C, which would supposedly mitigate the formation of nitrosamines, although it does nothing to prevent the formation of another known carcinogen, nitrosyl-haem.

Over the years, the messages challenging the dangers of bacon have become ever more outlandish. An explainer article by the Meat Science and Muscle Biology lab at the University of Wisconsin argues that sodium nitrite is in fact critical for maintaining human health by controlling blood pressure, preventing memory loss, and accelerating wound healing. A French meat industry website,, argues that the use of the right dose of nitrites in ham guarantees healthy and safe products, and insists that ham is an excellent food for children.

The bacon lobby has also found surprising allies among the natural foods brigade. Type nitrate cancer bacon into Google, and you will find a number of healthy eating articles, some of them written by advocates of the Paleo diet, arguing that bacon is actually a much-maligned health food. The writers often mention that vegetables are the primary source of nitrates, and that human saliva is high in nitrite. One widely shared article claims that giving up bacon would be as absurd as attempting to stop swallowing. Out of the mass of stuff on the internet defending the healthiness of bacon, it can be hard to tell which writers have fallen under the sway of the meat lobby, and which are simply clueless nutrition experts who dont know any better.

Either way, this misinformation has the potential to make thousands of people unwell. The mystifying part is why the rest of us have been so willing to accept the cover-up.

Our deepening knowledge of its harm has done very little to damage the comforting cultural associations of bacon. While I was researching this article, I felt a rising disgust at the repeated dishonesty of the processed meat industry. I thought about hospital wards and the horrible pain and indignity of bowel cancer. But then I remembered being in the kitchen with my father as a child on a Sunday morning, watching him fry bacon. When all the bacon was cooked, he would take a few squares of bread and fry them in the meaty fat until they had soaked up all its goodness.

In theory, our habit of eating salted and cured meats should have died out as soon as home refrigerators became widespread in the mid-20th century. But tastes in food are seldom rational, and millions of us are still hooked on the salty, smoky, umami savour of sizzling bacon.

We are sentimental about bacon in a way we never were with cigarettes, and this stops us from thinking straight. The widespread willingness to forgive pink, nitrated bacon for causing cancer illustrates how torn we feel when something beloved in our culture is proven to be detrimental to health. Our brains cant cope with the horrid feeling that bacon is not what we thought it was, and so we turn our anger outwards to the health gurus warning us of its hazards. The reaction of many consumers to the WHO report of 2015 was: hands off my bacon!

In 2010, the EU considered banning the use of nitrates in organic meats. Perhaps surprisingly, the British organic bacon industry vigorously opposed the proposed nitrates ban. Richard Jacobs, the late chief executive of Organic Farmers & Growers, an industry body, said that prohibiting nitrate and nitrite would have meant the collapse of a growing market for organic bacon.

Organic bacon produced with nitrates sounds like a contradiction in terms, given that most consumers of organic food buy it out of concerns for food safety. Having gone to the trouble of rearing pigs using free-range methods and giving them only organic feed, why would you then cure the meat in ways that make it carcinogenic? In Denmark, all organic bacon is nitrate-free. But the UK organic industry insisted that British shoppers would be unlikely to accept bacon that was greyish.

Then again, the slowness of consumers to lose our faith in pink bacon may partly be a response to the confusing way that the health message has been communicated to us. When it comes to processed meat, we have been misled not just by wild exaggerations of the food industry but by the caution of science.

On the WHO website, the harmfulness of nitrite-treated meats is explained so opaquely you could miss it altogether. In the middle of a paragraph on what makes red meat and processed meat increase the risk of cancer, it says: For instance, carcinogenic chemicals that form during meat processing include N-nitroso compounds. What this means, in plain English, is that nitrites make bacon more carcinogenic. But instead of spelling this out, the WHO moves swiftly on to the question of how both red and processed meats might cause cancer, after adding that it is not yet fully understood how cancer risk is increased.

The typical British sausage does not fall into the processed meat category. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

This caution has kept us as consumers unnecessarily in the dark. Consider sausages. For years, I believed that the unhealthiest part in a cooked English breakfast was the sausage, rather than the bacon. Before I started to research this article, Id have sworn that sausages fell squarely into the processed meat category. They are wrongly listed as such on the NHS website.

But the average British sausage as opposed to a hard sausage like a French saucisson is not cured, being made of nothing but fresh meat, breadcrumbs, herbs, salt and E223, a preservative that is non-carcinogenic. After much questioning, two expert spokespeople for the US National Cancer Institute confirmed to me that one might consider fresh sausages to be red meat and not processed meat, and thus only a probable carcinogen. (To me, the fact that most sausages are not processed meat was deeply cheering, and set me dancing around the kitchen with glee thinking about toad in the hole.)

In general, if you ask a cancer scientist to distinguish between the risks of eating different types of meat, they become understandably cagey. The two experts at the National Cancer Institute told me that meats containing nitrites and nitrates have consistently been associated with increased risk of colon cancer in human studies. But they added that it is difficult to separate nitrosamines from other possible carcinogens that may be present in processed meats like bacon. These other suspects include haem iron a substance that is abundant in all red meat, processed or not and heterocyclic amines: chemicals that form in meat during cooking. A piece of crispy, overcooked bacon will contain multiple carcinogens, and not all are due to the nitrates.

The problem with this reasoning, as I see it, is that it cant account for why processed meat is so much more closely linked to cancer than cooked red meat. For that, there remains no plausible explanation except for nitrates and nitrites. But looking for clear confirmation of this in the data is tricky, given that humans do not eat in labs under clinical observation.

Most of what we know about processed meat and cancer in humans comes from epidemiology the study of disease across whole populations. But epidemiologists do not ask the kind of detailed questions about food that the people who eat that food may like answers to. The epidemiological data based on surveys of what people eat is now devastatingly clear that diets high in processed meats lead to a higher incidence of cancer. But it cant tell us how or why or which meats are the best or worst. As Corinna Hawkes of City University comments, The researchers dont ask you if you are eating artisanal charcuterie from the local Italian deli or the cheapest hotdogs on the planet.

I would love to see data comparing the cancer risk of eating nitrate-free Parma ham with that of traditional bacon, but no epidemiologist has yet done such a study. The closest anyone has come was a French study from 2015, which found that consumption of nitrosylated haem iron as found in processed meats had a more direct association with colon cancer than the haem iron that is present in fresh red meat.

It may be possible that epidemiologists have not asked people more detailed questions about what kind of processed meats they eat because they assume there is no mass-market alternative to bacon made without nitrates or nitrites. But this is about to change.

The technology now exists to make the pink meats we love in a less damaging form, which raises the question of why the old kind is still so freely sold. Ever since the war on nitrates of the 1970s, US consumers have been more savvy about nitrates than those in Europe, and there is a lot of nitrate-free bacon on the market. The trouble, as Jill Pell remarks, is that most of the bacon labelled as nitrate-free in the US isnt nitrate-free. Its made with nitrates taken from celery extract, which may be natural, but produces exactly the same N-nitroso compounds in the meat. Under EU regulation, this bacon would not be allowed to be labelled nitrate-free.

Its the worst con Ive ever seen in my entire life, says Denis Lynn, the chair of Finnebrogue Artisan, a Northern Irish company that makes sausages for many UK supermarkets, including Marks & Spencer. For years, Lynn had been hoping to diversify into bacon and ham but, he says, I wasnt going to do it until we found a way to do it without nitrates.

When Lynn heard about a new process, developed in Spain, for making perfectly pink, nitrate-free bacon, he assumed it was another blind alley. In 2009, Juan de Dios Hernandez Canovas, a food scientist and the head of the food tech company Prosur, found that if he added certain fruit extracts to fresh pork, it stayed pink for a surprisingly long time.

In January 2018, Finnebrogue used this technology to launch genuinely nitrate-free bacon and ham in the UK. It is sold in Sainsburys and Waitrose as Naked Bacon and Naked Ham, and in M&S as made without nitrites. Kirsty Adams, who oversaw its launch at M&S, explains that its not really cured. Its more like a fresh salted pork injected with a fruit and vegetable extract, and is more perishable than an old-fashioned flitch of bacon but that doesnt matter, given that it is kept in a fridge. Because it is quick to produce, this is much more economically viable to make than some of the other nitrate-free options, such as slow-cured Parma ham. The bacon currently sells in Waitrose for 3 a pack, which is not the cheapest, but not prohibitive either.

I tried some of the Finnebrogue bacon from M&S. The back bacon tasted pleasant and mild, with a slight fruitiness. It didnt have the toothsome texture or smoky depth of a rasher of butchers dry-cured bacon, but Id happily buy it again as an alternative to nitro-meat. None of my family noticed the difference in a spaghetti amatriciana.

Nitrite-free bacon still sounds a bit fancy and niche, but there shouldnt be anything niche about the desire to eat food that doesnt raise your risk of cancer. Lynn says that when he first approached Prosur about the fruit extract, he asked how much they had sold to the other big bacon manufacturers during the two years they had been offering it in the UK. The answer was none. None of the big guys wanted to take it, claims Lynn. They said: It will make our other processed meats look dodgy.

But it also remains to be seen how much consumer demand there will be for nitrite- or nitrate-free bacon. For all the noise about bacon and cancer, it isnt easy to disentangle at a personal level just what kind of risk we are at when we eat a bacon sandwich. OK, so 34,000 people may die each year because of processed meat in their diet, but the odds are that it wont be you. I asked a series of cancer scientists whether they personally ate processed meat, and they all gave slightly different answers. Jill Pell said she was mostly vegetarian and ate processed meats very rarely. But when I asked Fabrice Pierre, a French expert on colon cancer and meat, if he eats ham, he replied: Yes, of course. But with vegetables at the same meal. (Pierres research at the Toxalim lab has shown him that some of the carcinogenic effects of ham can be offset by eating vegetables.)

Our endless doubt and confusion about what we should be eating have been a gift to the bacon industry. The cover-up about the harm of meat cured with nitrates and nitrites has been helped along by the scepticism many of us feel about all diet advice. At the height of the great bacon scare of 2015, lots of intelligent voices were saying that it was safe to ignore the new classification of processed meats as carcinogenic, because you cant trust anything these nutritionists say. Meanwhile, millions of consumers of ham and bacon, many of them children, are left unprotected. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this controversy is how little public outrage it has generated. Despite everything, most of us still treat bacon as a dear old friend.

In an ideal world, we would all be eating diets lower in meat, processed or otherwise, for the sake of sustainability and animal welfare as much as health. But in the world we actually live in, processed meats are still a normal, staple protein for millions of people who cant afford to swap a value pack of frying bacon for a few slivers of Prosciutto di Parma. Around half of all meat eaten in developed countries is now processed, according to researcher John Kearney, making it a far more universal habit than smoking.

The real victims in all this are not people like me who enjoy the occasional bacon-on-sourdough in a hipster cafe. The people who will be worst affected are those many on low incomes for whom the cancer risk from bacon is compounded by other risk factors such as eating low-fibre diets with few vegetables or wholegrains. In his book, Coudray points out that in coming years, millions more poor consumers will be affected by preventable colon cancer, as westernised processed meats conquer the developing world.

Last month, Michele Rivasi, a French MEP, launched a campaign in collaboration with Coudray demanding a ban of nitrites from all meat products across Europe. Given how vigorously the bacon industry has fought its corner thus far, a total ban on nitrites looks unlikely.

But there are other things that could be done about the risk of nitrites and nitrates in bacon, short of an absolute veto. Better information would be a start. As Corinna Hawkes points out, it is surprising that there hasnt been more of an effort from government to inform people about the risks of eating ham and bacon, perhaps through warning labels on processed meats. But where is the British politician brave enough to cast doubt on bacon?

Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Transhumanism Is Dominating Sci-Fi TV

The future belongs to those who can afford it. This may be virtually true in today’s world, where surviving retirement can feel impossible, but it’s also the literal premise of Altered Carbon, Netflix’s new prestige sci-fi series. Based on Richard K. Morgan’s novel of same name, the neo-noir is set several hundred years in the future, when human consciousness has been digitized into microchip-like “stacks” constantly being swapped into and out of various bodies, or “sleeves.”

This technology, along with innovations like human cloning and artificial intelligence, has given society a quantum leap, but it’s also sent socioeconomic stratification into overdrive, creating dire new realities for the poor and incarcerated while simultaneously producing an elite upper-class. Called “Mets”—short for “Methuselahs”—the members of Altered Carbon’s 0.001 percent have achieved virtual immortality thanks to vaults of their own cloned sleeves and cloud backups full of their stacks. It’s either dystopia or utopia, depending on one’s bank account.

Whatever your views on the show’s plot, in which a former rebel supersoldier named Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman), on ice in a stack prison, is revived and hired by a Met to solve the murder of his last sleeve, Altered Carbon’s best quality is its worldbuilding. In the 25th century, transhumanism—the belief that human beings are destined to transcend their mortal flesh through technology—has reached its full potential, and some of its end results are not pretty, at all.

But Altered Carbon is only the latest bit of transhumanism to hit TV recently. From Black Mirror’s cookies and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams’ mind-invading telepaths and alien bodysnatchers to Star Trek: Discovery’s surgical espionage and Travelerstime-jumping consciousness, the classic tropes of body-hopping, body-swapping, and otherwise commandeering has exploded in an era on the brink, one in which longevity technology is accelerating more rapidly than ever, all while most people still trying to survive regular threats to basic corporeal health and safety.

These tropes have enjoyed a healthy existence in sci-fi and horror for decades, but now more than ever transhumanism is ubiquitous in pop culture, asking us to consider the ethical, personal, political, and economic implications of an ideology with a goal—implementing technology in the human body to prolong and improve life—that is already beginning to take shape.

The Birth of Transhumanism

A crucial fact to remember about transhumanism and the philosophies it inspired, including the ones modeled by Altered Carbon’s Mets, is that its conception was heavily rooted in eugenics. Though earlier thinkers had already produced work one could call transhumanist today, the term wasn’t coined until 1951, by Julian Huxley, a noted evolutionary biologist (and brother to Brave New World author Aldous Huxley). Julian Huxley believed strongly in the fundamentally exclusionary theory that society would improve immensely if only its “best” members were allowed to procreate. In the speech in which he first used the word “transhumanism,” he claimed that in order for humans to “transcend the tentative fumblings of our ancestors,” society ought to enact “a concerted policy … to prevent the present flood of population-increase from wrecking all our hopes for a better world.”

While he didn’t necessarily believe the criteria for what constituted “best” should be drawn along racial or economic lines, the ideology Huxley promoted was inherently elitist. It also allowed for virtually as many interpretations as there are people, and plenty of those people, particularly those in power—especially in Huxley’s time, but also in the fictional future of Altered Carbon—did and do believe “best” means “white, straight, financially successful, and at least nominally Christian.” As a result, the concept he named ended up being primarily conceptualized in its infancy by white men of privilege.

This, of course, didn’t remain the main interpretation of transhumanism for long. In the years following Huxley’s coinage, humans made profound leaps in technological innovation, first in computers and then in AI, which allowed more people to envision the possibilities of one day being able to transcend their organic limitations. The basic concept was easily repurposed by those whose oppression has always been tied to physical violence—notably people of color, LGBTQ people, and women.

By the early 1980s, scholars like Natasha Vita-More and Donna Haraway had revamped the concept with manifestos that argued transhumanism ought to be about “diversity” and “multiplicity,” about breaking down constructs like gender, race, and ability in favor of a more fluid, “chimeric” alternative in which each person can be many seemingly contradictory things at once—including human and machine. (As WIRED’s Julie Muncy explains in her review of the first season, Altered Carbon touches upon but never really takes a stance on this dimension of a post-corporeal world.)

The Future, Revisited

As Silicon Valley boomed, so did transhumanism. Millionaire investors have poured endless cash into anti-aging research, machine intelligence companies, and virtual reality; meanwhile, the possibility of extended or superhuman life has veered even further into becoming the exclusive purview of the extremely rich (and, more often than not, extremely white and extremely male). In 1993, mathematician and science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge pegged the arrival of the singularity—the moment at which technology, particularly AI, supersedes human intelligence and either eliminates humanity or fuses with it, allowing people to finally become “post-human”—at around 2030; by 2005 futurist Ray Kurzweil was agreeing with Vinge in his now-seminal book The Singularity is Near. (The Verge has a solid timeline of transhumanist thought here.)

Today, working organs are being 3D-printed. Nanites, while a few years off, are definitely on the horizon. And the technologies that fuel nightmare fodder like Black Mirror are becoming realities almost daily, which gives the overwhelming impression to laypeople that the Singularity, while perhaps still technically far off, is imminent.

Add privatized healthcare, police brutality, immigration, sexual assault, and plenty more extremely real threats to people’s physical bodies—not to mention the exponential growth of the TV industry itself—and you’ve got the perfect cocktail for a flood of transhumanist sci-fi shows that give form to anxieties viewers have about both wanting to escape the physical confines of their blood-bag existences and being absolutely, justifiably terrified of what could go wrong when they actually do.

But however uncomfortable it may be, that dilemma is not accidental. It has become necessary to understanding and surviving our current techno-political moment. Whether enjoying the ecstasy of possibility in Altered Carbon’s disembodied immortality or writhing in the agony of imagining eternity as a digital copy of one’s own consciousness, the roller coaster of emotions these shows elicit ought to be a major signal to audiences that now is the time to be thinking about the cost of pursuing technological immortality. If stacks and sleeves are indeed our inevitable future, the moral quandary won’t lie in the body-swapping itself—it’ll be reckoning with who gets to do it and why.

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If You Have Anxiety, You Should Watch More Horror Movies

Unsplash / Hermes Rivera

Over the years my anxiety has manifested itself in a lot of different ways. There was the phase when I was a little kid and was afraid of flushing the toilet. There was the phase when I lived alone and thought endlessly about how I might die in my sleep, and no one would ever find me until weeks later.

These days it exists as a sort of dull, ever-looming thing that feels like there’s something you were supposed to remember to do but there’s no hope in remembering what it is. Like Neville with the Rememberall™️.

To distract myself from life’s responsibilities, I’m that friend that will always suggest we go see the latest chapter of a gory horror flick. It almost always gets met with very intense “Hell no” that’s almost insulting.

It’s fine.

I like going to the movies by myself anyways.

When I tell people that horror movies calm me, they look at me very confused and a little bit disgusted. Or even worse, they think it’s one of those “I’m just so weird and quirky” anecdotes that you say to create some intricate persona for yourself. It’s a rough life, really.

But really, few things bring more joy than a genuinely terrifying and well-thought-out storyline.

A few weeks ago, I was browsing Netflix and stumbled upon the movie Creep, and it’s successor, Creep 2 (99 & 100% on Rotten Tomatoes respectively! Very respectable stats). They quickly became two of the best and scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Equal parts hilarious and horrifying. No monsters or supernatural stuff, just ordinary people in very bizarre situations. It reminded me something.

Being scared by something that isn’t real is FUN. I guess you could call it cheap thrills. That’s how I feel about horror movies. A quick scare is very exhilarating and one of the best forms of therapy I’ve experienced. And the perfect distraction from everyday life. I noticed this obsession with mystery and darkness early on when I would Google crime stories and read about famous serial killers much to the dismay of my teachers and family members.

The first movie I remember truly terrifying me was The Blair Witch Project. Which, thanks to their unbelievable, ahead of its time marketing campaign, had me convinced the events were real. Which equal parts terrified and excited me. As I got older and my anxiety progressed, the things I thought to be scary in my childhood became way less frightening than dealing with real life.

Weirdly, horror stories make me feel more in control. Even more so if I can relate to the protagonist. It helps me to plan and take precautions against being kidnapped. And I know exactly what not to do if I suspect one of my friends is possessed by a demon. Y’know… very practical life advice.

Being perpetually anxious also means hat means that regular things terrify me way more than things that are supposed to scare me. Scary movies are a type of exposure therapy to the inevitably horrific things that you will probably (hopefully) never experience in your life.

Because let’s me real, the idea that someone is going to kidnap me or I’m going to experience paranormal activity is way scarier than that meeting I have to run tomorrow and takes my mind off of the horror of that the stupid thing I said at happy hour yesterday.

Real life is way scarier. If I can focus on something that isn’t my life (or the world, or politics) it clears my head of intrusive thoughts.

People love to say:

My response: Have you ever had anxiety? Quiet time does not turn off my brain. Nor will the slow-talking man in the Headspace app.

It’s hard to be depressed or anxious about work or life or health insurance while watching someone get sawed in half. Work, school, love, etc, don’t matter when you’re watching someone’s throat being slit.

It’s the only fool-proof method to clear my head of whatever struggles I’m dealing with at the time. It hyper-focuses my anxiety on a singular thing. It’s all about the distraction. It gives me something to think about for a few days, offering a very brief escape.

There are plenty of ways to cope, from meditation to medication. And you should seek necessary medical attention if anxiety takes over your life, but horror movies are a harmless vice to distract you from the real demons in your mind.

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Michael Moore Tries To Prove Women Are Better Than Men, Gets Brilliantly Shut Down By A Woman

There are plenty of badass women but Academy-Award winning filmmaker Michael Moore thinks there aren’t any bad ones. “No women ever invented an atomic bomb, built a smoke stack, initiated a Holocaust, melted the polar ice caps or organized a school shooting,” Moore tweeted. Missing logic in his claims, writer Jessica Ellis wrote an insightful rebuttal to Moore, and her Twitter response quickly went viral.

While attacking the patriarchy, Moore suggested that women are naturally superior to men in living up to universal moral standards. “My initial response was actually very personal,” Ellis, who considers herself a feminist, told Bored Panda. “I had been struggling with anxiety issues and going to therapy, where I realized I thought the fact that I had dark thoughts sometimes made me a bad person. I had also come to realize that part of the reason I felt that way is that women are raised on a doctrine of purity and that Moore (who I respect greatly as a filmmaker) was furthering that concept. When you are taught that all women are naturally sweet and wonderful, you can feel extra-extra crazy if you feel anger or depression or anxiety.”

And even though ladies have not held powerful political positions as much as men, Ellis perfectly points out why they struggle with making ethically just decisions, too. “It’s bad for women’s mental health to be held to an unrealistic purity standard.” After all, we’re all human! Scroll down to read her reasoning and let us know your thoughts about it in the comments.

Academy-Award winning filmmaker Michael Moore tried to convince Twitter that there aren’t any bad women

But one lady wasn’t buying it

The internet quickly backed her up

Ellis would also like to add one more thing. “While I stand behind the point I was making, tone is difficult on the internet and I felt vaguely ashamed of speaking to a documentarian I respect so vehemently. On the other hand, this is hardly my first fiery rant, on Twitter or elsewhere, and I’m glad people connected to the message and hopefully understood that my anger was coming from a place of wanting to protect women from the dreaded pedestal, and not as an attack on [anyone].”

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In Parkland, the Kids Are Already Changing Things on Guns

PARKLAND, FloridaThe stages of grief are active in the young lives of students who survived Americas latest school shooting, but its the last stagethe acceptance stagethat they will not allow to set in.

Fourteen children and three adults were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. It was the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Unlike mass murders since then, where people have resigned themselves to gun laws not changing, this time already appears to be different, thanks to the kids.

I dont even have a job. I dont even have any money, Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, told The Daily Beast on Sunday. Stopping this from happening again is my life now.

The heart of this movement is in Parkland… Parkland is strong and its the type of community that can make change from tragedy, Cameron Kasky said to the crowd of gun reform supporters at North Community Park, less than a quarter-mile from the high school.

Stop yelling at each other, stop it with the Republicans and the Democrats… for Gods sake, fucking hug each other, Kasky said.

Just outside the high school, teddy bears, flowers, candles, and personalized messages to the fallen stand out from the crime scene tape that still surrounds the perimeter gate. A row of parked cars on the grass down a residential street indicates a private memorial.

The students, parents, and teachers have started the #NeverAgainMSD movement and have organized the March for Our Lives on March 24 in Washington, D.C., to demand action on guns, which seems already to be having an impact on staunch pro-gun legislators.

Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat who represents Parkland, told The Daily Beast on Monday that the push for gun reform feels different this time.

Now, is it just because this happened in my backyard where the connections are so close and the pain is so raw? I dont know, maybe, but I dont think so, Deutch said.

Its different because you have all of these brave young adults who have unfortunately aged far beyond their years as a result of this shooting, leading the effort, Deutch said. The difference between now and in the past is this is the active shooter generation. These kids have been doing active shooter drills since they started kindergarten.

On the national level, White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters on Friday that President Donald Trump is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system for firearm purchases.

The bipartisan Senate bill introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) seeks to improve the reporting process of offenses on the state and local levels that could further aid in keeping firearms out of potentially dangerous individuals.

This is not a Second Amendment issue, its a public safety issue, Deutch said. He [Trump] spent a lot of time complaining about extreme vetting in the context of immigration. Well, we certainly should do extreme vetting of people who are about to purchase a firearm that could cause the kind of mass casualties that weve seen over the past few years.

Meanwhile, in Florida, pro-gun legislation seeking to expand, not restrict, current gun laws has stalled for the moment. The bills that were set to come to the floor and pass within the states House and Senate were pulled amid the growing national attention on Florida.

If passed, the bills would have sought to change Florida from a concealed carry to an open carry state; provide broader authorities to people with concealed carry licenses to move from state to state without violating state or federal laws; and provide teachers with firearms.

Broward County Mayor Beam Furr told The Daily Beast that Republicans in Tallahassee were embarrassed to have the legislative bills on the floor as Florida gained national attention after the shooting.

The power is primarily Republican in Florida and theyre not willing to compromise, Furr told The Daily Beast on Sunday.

In a early sign of progress for the #NeverAgainMSD movement, Florida state legislators in the House and Senate signaled they would draft new legislation aimed at curtailing access to semi-automatic rifles by raising the legal age of purchase from 18 to 21 years old and provide a three-day waiting period before the firearm sale is complete.

We owe it to victims of families on what I now consider the absolute most important issue of the session, said Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

However, the plan stops short of the demands from the majority of Parkland residents, who call for an all-out ban on assault rifles. Florida Gov. Rick Scott told CNNs Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, Everythings on the table. Im going to look at every way that we can make sure our kids are safe.

When asked if he supported tightening gun restrictions in the state, Scott told CNN, We cannot let this pass without making something happen that hopefully, and its my goal that this will never happen again in my state.

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords PAC has begun running attack ads against Scott over his gun policy record, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Specifically, the ads target Scotts supporting a bill that prevents doctors, including mental health professionals, from asking patients if they owned a firearm. Scott currently has a A+ rating from the NRA.

Florida has historically been the epicenter for legislative test bedding for new or modified bills backed by the NRA in support of expanding gun rights that influence how firearms are regulated in other U.S. states, Floridas Stand Your Ground law, for example, gives legal protections to people who use deadly force in public if they feel they were in imminent danger.

The effort in Florida is led by the first female president of the National Rifle Association. Additionally, the gun lobby is bolstered by suburban financial backing and a dedicated voter base that keeps Republican lawmakers in office.

Floridas gun laws came under scrutiny in recent years, especially after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando and in Fort Lauderdale in 2016. However, despite the national attention then and now, the only movement on gun legislation out of Tallahassee is proposals to relax restrictions on gun owners and expand the scope of where guns could be carried.

Meanwhile, local officials like those in Broward County are hamstrung by a law that prevents local officials and police chiefs from passing new laws or amending existing gun laws. The provision even allows for the arrest of local officials who try to challenge the law.

We could very quickly figure out something that could further protect our citizens, but right now that wont see the light of day, Furr said.

Carlos J. Reyes, the executive director for Broward Countys Charter Review Commission, says it is working to see what can be done immediately to provide additional protections for residents.

Theres currently a section within our charter that regulates handguns, but because of the state statute, thats considered null and void. The mere thought of trying to introduce change from a policymaker triggers a violation of the statute, Reyes said. Its a $5,000 fine and removal from office.

So when we say our hands are tied, its literal. It means going to jail if we try to pass any common-sense measures, Furr told The Daily Beast.

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5 Insanely Important Jobs (We’re Running Out Of People For)

Supply and demand should ensure that we never run out of people to do the really key jobs. If there was a dire shortage of, say, potato chip flavor developers (don’t panic, this is strictly theoretical), chip companies would make the salary and perks of the job more attractive, colleges would hype up the benefits of majoring in flavor science, and new blood would enter the field, bringing with them the caramel-and-Worcestershire-sauce-flavored Pringles we truly deserve. But reality is nowhere near that efficient, and we are running out of people for some especially vital jobs. For example …


Old Programmers Are Dying Off … And Taking Their Computer Languages With Them

As far as we’re concerned, computers are magic. We don’t know the technical details of what goes down when we order a book from Amazon or stream truly shocking amounts of pornography, and frankly, we don’t want to. That’s why we have computer programmers. They do all the important behind-the-scenes work that lets us take complicated technology for granted, and they give us someone to complain about when that technology fails and we can’t stream Gilmore Girls on our toaster at three in the morning.

But there’s a problem: An enormous amount of our financial data is stored on systems still running ancient programming. Roughly three trillion dollars a day runs through computers still operating on COBOL, a language that was developed in 1959. Everything from ATMs to credit card networks to mortgage payments rely on a system that makes calculator watches look like absurd science fiction. And the majority of people who know how to fix the many problems with COBOL are getting ready to meet their programmers.

Via Fossbytes.comSo sleep tight knowing that your paycheck could depend on a program that looks like it should be threatening Matthew Broderick with nuclear annihilation.

It’s not as simple as moving everything onto a more modern infrastructure. At this point, the financial system is so intertwined with its COBOL roots that it would be like trying to simultaneously replace all of your veins with fiber optics. A switchover is theoretically possible, but if something goes wrong, the financial data for millions of people could vanish.

Since it would be impractical to make everyone temporarily withdraw all of their money until the problem is fixed, geriatric programmers are making good money running firms that specialize in COBOL. Meanwhile, the industry is rushing to train young programmers (and rehire the old guys they fired because they thought their skills were obsolete). Further compounding the problem is that programmers of the original COBOL systems rarely wrote handbooks, and deciphering someone else’s computer code 40 years later is like trying to communicate an elaborate sexual fantasy via slide whistles.

And it’s not only banking. NASA once desperately needed to find programmers who knew Fortran to communicate with their Voyager probes. These are by no means insurmountable problems, so don’t panic and put all of your money in Dogecoins tomorrow. But it’s kind of like suddenly discovering that we have to teach thousands of people Latin to prevent the English language book industry from collapsing.


The Demand For Oncologists Skyrockets While Supply Plummets

We’re living longer than ever, and while that’s mostly awesome, it does have some downsides. Now that we’re not frequently devoured by wolves, we have to deal with other, increasingly common causes of death, like heart disease or insisting that you could kick everyone’s ass in a hot dog eating contest. And then there’s cancer.

We need oncologists more than ever, and that’s a problem, since burnout is taking a serious toll on that profession. We’re estimated to be short 2,500 to 4,000 oncologists by 2020. The burnout can be physical — you’re constantly required to stay up to date on lab results, deal with sudden calls from patients at all hours of the day, and fight for settlements with insurance companies — but there’s also the emotional exhaustion of forming close bonds with suffering patients, having to break difficult news to them, and in some cases, watching them die.

Association of American Medical CollegesThe news isnt really great for other specialties, either.

We need to increase the number of America’s oncologists by an estimated 40 percent by 2025 merely to keep up with the need. Improving medical care is going to make us better at surviving other diseases, which means more people are going to be confronting nature’s final boss. To close the gap between the high retirement rates and new trainees entering the field, we’ll need hundreds more people to enter oncology programs each year. And we’re currently losing them hand over fist. So if you’re getting ready for med school and have no issues with emotionally crushing situations, we’ve found a promising career for you.


We’re Short On Farm Labor Because It’s Such A Terrible Job

85 percent of farm laborers are immigrants, and roughly 70 percent of those immigrants are undocumented. And between 2009 and 2016, that workforce decreased by three million people due to deportation. Those who do remain are growing older, and there might not be anyone to replace them.

OK, but isn’t that the whole point of deporting undocumented immigrants? To free up jobs for unemployed citizens? In theory, yes … but not enough Americans looking for work want to get into farming. It’s exhausting, physical labor with long hours in harsh weather. One farm started offering Americans $20 an hour, but still couldn’t retain workers. 401(k)s? Health insurance? Generous bonuses? None of it makes up for the fact that the work blows, despite what Stardew Valley told you about the appeal of quitting your office job to live in the country.

Norma FloresBut hey, free housing … assuming youre OK with living in dilapidated communal barracks.

With demand vastly exceeding supply, farmers have had to rethink what they can afford to grow and harvest. Nuts, for example, can be harvested by machines, but peaches require the delicate touch of a human. But replacing human labor with machines means that only a minuscule fraction of employees will be needed in the future. So an entire industry will up and vanish, and then we’ll have to think of some new problem to blame immigrants for.


Nobody Wants To Be A Skilled Manufacturer Anymore

While the United States undeniably has a shortage of skilled jobs that provide stability and security, there’s also a huge, undiscussed problem in the opposite direction. We don’t have enough people trained to do skilled manufacturing jobs.

MixabestShocking how no one wants a career that will obviously be done by humans forever.

That means factory work, machine maintenance, melting Terminators in giant vats of liquid metal, etc. Up to two million of those jobs will go unfilled over the next decade just because people aren’t trained for them. We’re literally running out of people who know how to make things that aren’t Minecraft videos and snarky Tweets. Do you remember Trump saying that he wanted to bring good jobs back from overseas? Factory CEOs turned around and told him that those jobs are already here, but vacant.

Why the shortage? Well, corporations cracked down on unions, which lowered wages and led to the perception that manufacturing jobs, even skilled ones, were boring, repetitive positions for lower-class bozos. So colleges started de-emphasizing manufacturing skill sets, and graduates in relevant fields, like mechanics and engineering, started dropping accordingly. The industry is turning to automation, but factories still need employees to install and maintain those machines, and even those employees are missing.


If you’re a cartoonish conservative stereotype loudly wondering why “America doesn’t build things anymore,” it’s not because of them lousy foreigners. It’s because corporations neglected those jobs, and now nobody wants to do them anymore.


We Don’t Have Nearly Enough Pilots To Meet Our Demand For Air Travel

Air travel is perhaps the modern luxury that we most take for granted. It is a damn wonder that we hurtle through the sky at will, but tell that to the tired, grumpy people in economy. Or wait, maybe you won’t have to, because we’re running out of people who know how to operate those magical flying machines, to the point where flights are getting cancelled due to a lack of pilots. Obviously there’s a lot of training required before you can be trusted with the controls of a jet-powered carrier of human lives. In fact, after the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 (a disaster partly attributed to insufficient pilot training), the people in charge got together and said, “Hey, maybe we should re-examine how much experience pilots need before we let them take off in these soaring hunks of metal and fire that actively defy God.”

Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives50 dead bodies do usually lead to some reevaluation.

The result was a whopping 500 percent increase in the amount of flight time required before you can pilot a passenger or cargo plane. That’s great from a safety standpoint. The more experienced the better, right? But the unfortunate side effect is that it’s turned people away from wanting to become pilots in the first place. Those new requirements, and the north of $100,000 price tag that comes along with all that education and training, make simply becoming an accountant and buying a flight simulator look a lot more appealing.

Boeing predicts that over 600,000 pilots are going to be needed over the next 20 years to fill a demand that’s already forced one regional airline into bankruptcy. The aviation industry is trying to respond by offering increased pay and sign-on bonuses, but that’s mucking things up for another industry that needs pilots: the military. In 2017, the Air Force announced a “national aircrew crisis” which left them 1,555 pilots short of what they need, and the best thing you can say about that is that Top Gun 2 might actually be topical.

Check out Dwayne’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, where you can see the famous musicians he interviews for Revue Magazine. T.W. would like you to consider checking out the International Committee of the Red Cross. They do pretty cool stuff. Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs.

It’s not, NOT worth your time to learn COBOL, here’s a beginner’s book.

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Narcissistic Victim Syndrome: What The Heck Is That?

When a man or woman suffers from a condition named Narcissistic Personality Disorder, they display patterns of deviant or abnormal behavior that are so terrible, that they create carnage on those people who are unfortunate enough to have a close relationship with them.

The dysfunctional behavior involves such callous exploitation of their victims that it has given birth to a new condition known as Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (or Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome). While plenty has been written medically about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), little or nothing has been written about Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is considered the “bible” for all professionals, covers NPD extensively.

However, the DSM-IV has not written anything about the effects on those who live or work with the narcissist’s torturous behaviors, and the consequences of that behavior on the mental health of the victim. Thanks to the dedicated work of many psychotherapists, it has become clear that a set of detectable characteristics occur when working with victims of narcissistic abuse. The good news is that American therapists are calling for the recognition of this syndrome to be included in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V, to be published in 2013), in the hope that all therapists will be given standard guidelines for formulating a way of working with this syndrome.

First, what do we mean by “Syndrome”?

The word “syndrome” comes from the Greek “syn” which means , and “dramein” which means . So a syndrome is a set of signs and symptoms that tend to run together in a cluster that can be recognized as causing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. In order to be able to diagnose a client suffering with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, the therapist needs to be able to gather together the signs and symptoms and access the client’s psychological make-up as their story unfolds. That way they will be in a position to know if the person is suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome or a lesser form of abuse on their mental well-being.

Do therapists know enough about the effects of Narcissism on the Victim?

Speaking for psychotherapists in Ireland, I can confidently say, definitely not! Narcissistic Personality Disorder is predominately the domain of psychiatrists, psychologists, and the mental health services; so naturally, rarely would a diagnosed narcissist be consciously referred to a psychotherapist outside of the Mental Health Services. Naturally, as a consequence, the mental health services only concentrated on the vulnerability and treatment of the narcissistic patient in their care, their priority is not the victim; unless the victim ends up in psychiatric care themselves somewhere down the line at a later date.

Victims are more likely to present themselves in counseling or psychotherapy, not because they know that they may be suffering from NVS, but because they are not coping with their lives. I have spoken to many other psychotherapists, and although they know of narcissism, none feel that they have been sufficiently trained for recognizing narcissistic behavior and its effects on victims, let alone work with Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.

Because most Irish psychotherapy courses do little or no training in this area, and the fact that little or nothing has been written in the medical literature regarding the victims of narcissistic abuse, it is my observation that the majority of therapists, through no fault of their own, are ill-equipped to work with clients with this syndrome. If you read any of the Support Forums for survivors of narcissistic abuse, you will constantly hear them say that their therapists did not understand the depth of suffering they had been subjected to, and that the term “narcissistic abuse” had rarely been mentioned to them.

Understanding Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS) first requires an understanding of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD):

In order to be an effective therapist in the area of narcissistic victim abuse, it is vital to understand all that you can about the spectrum of narcissistic behavior. The spectrum of narcissism exists on a continuum, from healthy narcissism to unhealthy traits, and all the way to pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorder. By the way, the narcissist does not have to display all of the traits associated with the full-blown pathological stage of narcissism in order to do untold damage to their victims. For that reason, therapists need to familiarize themselves with narcissistic traits and the relationship dynamics between the narcissist and their victim. I am talking about the narcissist’s overwhelming need for entitlement, control, power, grandiosity and specialness, and how they use these traits to keep their omnipotent fantasies and their vulnerable ego intact.

Due to their own lack of receiving reasonably attuned caregiving as a child (whether it was being under protected or overprotected), the narcissist does not develop the authentic “True Self” that is necessary for confident living. A disregard of the child’s basic needs disturbs their development of self-esteem and the ability to function effectively. In order to protect themselves, they invest a lot of energy building up defenses.

One of those defenses is to develop a “False Self”; which is a mask of behavior that allows them to put on a show of being real in public. However, this pretense leaves the narcissist constantly guarding themselves against being “found out,” making them overly sensitive to narcissistic injury. Narcissistic injury is any perceived threat (real or imagined) to the narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth. So in order to maintain their illusion and protect their false self from any fluctuations of a disappointed ego-ideal, the narcissist demands that they receive perfect mirroring, stroking, and responses from their victims; this attention is known as narcissistic supply.

What is Narcissistic Supply?

Narcissistic supply is anything, in fact, that shields the narcissist from feeling a sense of shame or abandonment, and this is an integral part of narcissism. The narcissist needs narcissistic supply in order to preserve their fragile ego, and this can be provided by two distinct sources:

  1. Primary Narcissistic Supply provides all of the attention that the narcissist addict craves. The nature of the attention can be experienced in either a public forum (such as fame, celebrity, notoriety, or infamy etc.), or in a private form (such as admiration, flattery, acclaim, fear, repulsion etc.).
  2. Secondary Narcissistic Supply alludes to those people or things that provide supply on a regular basis (such as a spouse, children, friends, colleagues, partners, clients, etc.). This latter form of supply allows the narcissist to lead a more normal existence, it provides them with pride, financial safety, social distinction and the alliance that they need.

However, narcissistic supply is not confined to people only, it can be applied to any inanimate object that has the ability to attract attention and admiration to the narcissist, (for example, a flash car, property, clothes, being a member of a church, cult, club, or a business). In short, anything that acts as status symbols for the narcissist is “narcissistic supply.”

The therapist will also need to know how these behaviors go hand-in-hand with the obsessive multi-addictions of the narcissist. Obsessed by the illusion of a False Self, and an inflated sense of their own superiority, power, and control, the narcissist renders himself susceptible to all sorts of obsessions, compulsions, and addictions; such as, addiction to Narcissistic Supply; to Grandiosity; to Control, to Power; to Rage; to Perfectionism; to Attention; to Fame etc. Without a comprehensive knowledge of narcissism, a therapist has no way of understanding the devastating effects of the narcissistic abuse on the victim they are treating, effects that are so crippling that they can result in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome.

Today I do a great deal of work in this area, and my mission is to teach other therapists all that I have learned so that they too can become more effective in working in the area of this form of abuse, which is very much on the increase. My intention is not to “bad mouth” those who are suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, on the contrary, I believe that they are also victims of abuse somewhere in their past, and they too suffer greatly on a daily basis. What I hope is that my study will allow for more compassion towards both the narcissist and the victim, and provide therapists with insights for a better way of recognizing and working with narcissistic abuse in the therapeutic process.

What is Narcissistic Victim Syndrome?

First, what is the definition of the word “Victim”?  “A victim is a person harmed, injured, or killed as a result of a crime, accident, or other event or action.” So I think we can safely say (using this definition), that any person who has experienced narcissistic abuse has been harmed, injured, and in some cases, even killed as result of the narcissist’s behavior, then they are indeed victims.

When working with individuals who are displaying symptoms of narcissistic victim syndrome, the thing that I notice most of all is that the person feels so torn because they don’t understand what has happened to them. Before they can begin to put themselves back together, I believe that it is vital that the therapist must, through the process of the therapeutic work in progress, educate the individual in the area of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (the What, the When, the How, and the Why of the abuse etc) so that they can begin to make sense of what was really happening as their story unfolds. Without such information it is virtually impossible to build up their self-esteem to healthy levels, thus leaving them vulnerable to further re-victimization, and future entrapment with other narcissists.

Once a person has become a victim of a narcissist (whether it happened in childhood or later on in life), the victims are already unconsciously primed to enter the narcissist’s “convoluted dance” that opens them up to further abuse.

It is necessary for the therapist to gently shine a light on what they are doing in the dance that makes them a victim. Once again, a “Narcissistic Victim” is any person who is harmed, injured or killed by a person who displays pathological narcissism (which can occur on a spectrum of severity).

The victim needs to understand that this “dance” of codependency requires two people: the pleaser/fixer (victim), and the taker/controller (narcissist/addict), together both partners dance beautifully in perfect step, and the madness begins. The consequences for the victim not understanding the intricacy of the dance, is that, no matter how often they try to avoid “unhealthy” partners, they will find themselves habitually returning to the same dance floor; the only thing that will change is that they will find themselves dancing to a different tune, but always the personality of the dance partner remains the same.

Therapists need to be seriously aware that narcissism is a very complex disorder that creates a lot of suffering, both to the person who has the disorder and to those people who have to live with the disordered narcissistic behavior on a daily basis.

When I speak of narcissistic abuse, (abuse that can lead to Narcissistic Victim Syndrome), I am speaking about a form of abuse that is very insidious. What I mean by insidious is that the abuse is covert, cunning and often indirect. This form of abuse is often carried out in a subtle and clandestine manner because narcissists go to great pains to avoid being observed publicly as being abusive. This Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde behavior of the narcissist (loving one minute and totally enraged the next) can inflict great harm on the victim.

Understandably, the fear, distress, confusion, inner turmoil, and chaos that victims experience leave them “walking on eggshells” in order to avoid further conflict with the narcissist. The effect on the victim over time can be very crippling indeed. I liken narcissistic abuse to a parasitic worm that manages to penetrate under the skin, where it is out of the sight of witnessing eyes, but is free to injure or consume its host slowly, leaving trauma or disease in its wake. By the way, the narcissist can manage to live on inside the victim even after they manage to escape; it is as if their “seed” goes on.

However, when we speak of Narcissistic Victim Abuse, we are speaking of an abuse that has been caused by someone with a personality disorder, and more often than not, their personality disorder has not been medically diagnosed, therefore the narcissistic individual goes undetected in society (i.e. in the home, the work-place, in organizations, in social settings etc.). It is vital to understand that narcissistic personality disorder is a serious mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for attention and admiration. The narcissist believes that they are superior to others, and have little regard for other people’s feelings, regardless of whom they are (i.e. spouse, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, peers etc.). Other people are merely objects there to serve their every need as narcissistic supply, and they will use every form of abuse, without guilt, empathy or conscience, in order to make sure that their needs are served.

What do victims of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome look like?

Are these clients likely to come into the therapy room and say “I am the victim of narcissistic abuse”? The answer is, . They will look like any other client coming into your therapy room for the very first time. They are probably most likely to bring in an issue that is quite mundane and recognizable; such as, they are feeling depressed, having panic attacks, or the feeling that they cannot cope. They have no idea that they have been living in a “war zone” with a narcissistic personality in command (either in the past or in the present).

However, you, as the therapist, do not need to be afraid that you will not be able to cope with this syndrome. If you have completed your training, then you should have all the skills necessary to work with this syndrome. Armed with the knowledge of narcissistic abuse, and practical skills of working with trauma, you will become a lifeline to any victim of narcissistic abuse.

Like all clients coming into therapy, they have a story to tell; therefore they need someone to become an active listener and to validate what has happened to them. To my mind, it is the validation of the person’s experience that is vital from the very beginning. These clients are not mad, however, frequently they appear highly strung or nervous, and their levels of fear may be high, while their level of self-esteem is low. Often they present with obsessive-compulsive behaviors, phobias, panic attacks, so at times they may actually feel that they are going mad. They may experience insomnia and may have underlying eating disorders, so you may notice they are either underweight (as a means of having some control), or overweight (as a result of eating to self-comfort).

When working with NVS, you will find yourself working with emotions involving shock, anger, fear, and guilt. Often the victim will be suffering from Post Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD), or Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Symptoms of PTSD are often grouped into three main categories: Re-living (flashbacks, hallucinations, nightmares etc), Avoiding (people, places, thoughts, loss of interest etc), and Increased Arousal (excessive emotions, problems relating, difficulty in sleeping and concentration, outbursts of anger, anxiousness, panic attacks etc). You may also notice that your client is inclined to “dissociate” while you are talking to them. That is, it seems as if the client is tending to “compartmentalize their experience.” In doing so, they may appear to be detached from their emotions, body, or immediate surroundings; this experience is called derealization.

Dissociation can be caused as a direct result of trauma, often experienced in multiple forms during narcissistic childhood traumas (i.e. physical, psychological and sexual abuse). The dissociation is an automatic and effective defense mechanism to overwhelming acute stress the child is being subjected to; it is as if the child “jumps out” of their body in order to disconnect from the intolerable reality of the abuse while it is happening; by dissociating, the child is able to endure the highly traumatic experience without having to fully experience it.

I once worked with a client who was sexually abused as a child by her narcissistic father. He would call her in when she was playing outdoors with her friends, he would sexually abuse her, then send her straight out again to play. She recounted how, during the sexual abuse, she would escape out of her body, get up on top of the wardrobe and watch what was happening to the child in the bed. She referred to the child in the bed as the “bold girl” and the child on top of the wardrobe as the “good girl.” The bold girl never went outside the house, it was the good girl who went back out to play with all her friends. This defense mechanism protects the child against total annihilation of the self when their nervous system is strained to the limit.

However, the long-term effect of dissociation is that it may decrease the victim’s psychological functioning and adjustment. Dissociation is a crucial strategy that protects a person during a crisis, unfortunately, trauma survivors often rely too heavily on dissociation whenever they feel stressed in a situation, it can become their automatic freeze response to stress. Numbing the body is not an advantage when a person is called to live in the world because it can impair their ability to take appropriate fight or flight responses if faced with any threat from outside the self.

Of course, there are varying levels of dissociation, from daydreaming to fantasy, from leaving one’s body to derealization (the constant experience of dissociation). In the therapy room, dissociation severely diminishes the client’s ability to be present in the process, if it goes unchecked it may become a stumbling block. The therapist needs to go slowly at first, building trust and safety so as not to derail the person’s system. By explaining what dissociation is, the therapist can gently bring the client’s attention to when they are “leaving”. Taking time to build and practice new skills (in a playful way) as the go. The sequelae of narcissistic abuse may include any of the following symptoms: low self-esteem, self-mutilation (self-harming), suicidal thought, chronic pain, PTSD, depression, and somatizations.

Somatization is a variety of physical symptoms that the victim may have experienced, and usually, they will go to their doctor to get relief from their symptoms. Most doctors are unable to give a true diagnosis of what is really happening, as they can not classify the symptoms as they don’t have any identifiable physical origins. When there is no detectable organic pathology evident, the person is often diagnosed as having a “psychosomatic illnesses.” Somatization poses a major problem to the narcissistic victim’s general health.

Many of the symptoms of their ill health are a direct result of their repressed memories from their narcissistic abuse, usually from childhood. For example, a child might get severe cramps in response to the fear experienced by the narcissistic abuse, then as an adult, they may wake up with cramps for no apparent reason that the doctor can find. In this case, it is more likely that they are accessing repressed memories that they are not aware of, but their unconscious is now desperate to cleanse itself.

These clients with somatization disorder will typically have visited many doctors in pursuit of effective treatment, and many informed doctors do recognize that often the underlying cause is emotional, and they are then likely to refer the person on to a psychotherapist. Very often the symptoms are cured once the underlying emotional cause is identified, and the repressed memory has a chance to surface in order to be released in the safety of the therapeutic space.

Clients who have suffered narcissistic abuse are likely to demonstrate feelings of shame, and humiliation. This is partly due to the narcissistic abuser projecting their shame on to them. They also tend to be over responsible, and apt to self-blame, this is because they learned to take responsibility for the narcissist’s behavior. Whenever the narcissist’s rage is triggered, without any doubt the victim is told it is their fault (i.e “It’s your fault, you should have known that was going to upset me, now look what you have done”). They may act inferior or powerless, and feel great guilt when talking about their perpetrator, even to the point of wanting to protect them. They will often act with disgust at themselves, thinking they are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough etc.

Victims often find themselves being victimized by more than one person. They may talk of a second relationship that mirrored the same experience as with their first perpetrator. Quite often the first narcissistic injury is experienced in childhood. It may have been a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend of the victim etc. Having been re-victimized they often internalize that there is something wrong with them and that they deserve this kind of abuse, and resign themselves to that fate. It may become apparent that they may not have reached their potential in their personal life, or their professional life, this is partly due to the fact that they always had to stand in the shadow of the aggressor, and not upstage them. They learn to live in the shadows without really knowing why. These are some of the signs you can look out for. But there are more complicated symptoms still to be revealed that will need more of a greater explanation.

In Narcissistic Victim Syndrome you are looking for a cluster of symptoms to emerge:

Any of these symptoms mentioned above you might find in any client, however, when they present themselves in a cluster, you will start to identify a syndrome emerging. You will identify many of the symptoms of trauma (avoidance behavior, loss of interest, feeling detached, sense of a limited future, sleeping or eating difficulties, irritability, hypervigilance, easily startled, flashbacks, hopelessness, psychosomatic illnesses, self-harming, thoughts of suicide etc).

In the course of your work together, you may also become aware that the victim always seems to defend their abuser. While the situation would not make sense from a social standpoint, it may make absolute sense from a psychological viewpoint. What you may be witnessing is a psychological condition known as “Stockholm Syndrome.” Stockholm Syndrome involves the victim emotional bonding with their narcissistic captors, this form of “trauma bonding” is known to be a strategy of survival for victims of narcissistic abuse and intimidation.

In such a hostile environment, the victim soon learns that their abuser does carry out threats, so they are in real danger. Threats to their physical or psychological survival terrify them, leaving them feeling lost and isolated. But then, confusingly, they can also receive small kindnesses from the abuser, which make them feel connected again, the connection makes them feel safe once more.

It will be important to understand the components of Stockholm Syndrome in order to understand why the victim still wants to support, defend, and even love the perpetrator after all that they have gone through. This is a highly unconscious sophisticated source of defense for survival that needs to be applauded. Sometimes therapists will ask the client why they stayed in such a dysfunctional relationship for so long. This is not a good thing; it also tells me that the therapist does not understand a process called “Cognitive Dissonance.”

Cognitive dissonance is another unconscious defense mechanism employed for survival. As you can imagine, living in a torturous war zone, where all forms of power and control are used against you (intimidation; emotional, physical and mental abuse; isolation, economic abuse, sexual abuse, coercion, control etc.), the threat of abuse is always present. Coping with these states of mind throw the victim into any number of inner conflicts where defense mechanisms are called for. For example, a woman who is abused by her narcissistic spouse will hate the conditions she is living in. However, with the real fear of a violent reprisal from her narcissistic captor, if she tried to leave, she will more likely choose to stay put.

The cognitive dissonance shows itself through rationalization. On the one hand, she abhors her unhealthy relationship and all the abuse that goes with it; while on the other hand, she tells herself that he only fights with her because he loves and cares for her. This inner dialogue reduced her anxiety, allowing her to bond with her abuser, to the point that she will even protect him from the outside world if people attempt to rescue her or encourage her to leave.

The result of that is a massive draining conflict ensues between the person’s emotional self and their rational reasoning self. Their “cognitive dissonance” is a sign of the disharmony the victim is experiencing as a result of two conflicting ideas going on at the same time; i.e. the victim knows that they should get out of the abusive situation, but they also know that to do so will put them (and possibly their children) in great danger. When these two strategies are in place (Stockholm Syndrome and Cognitive Dissonance), the victim firmly believes that their relationship is not only acceptable but also vital for their survival. They become so enmeshed in the relationship with the abuser, that they feel that their world (mental and emotional) would fall apart if the relationship ended. This explains why they fear those people who attempt to rescue them from their abuser, and how this creates the victim to develop cognitive dissonance and become protective of their abuser.

As you (as a therapist) continue to work, another symptom you may become aware of is how the client seems to be feeling uncertain of themselves, constantly second-guessing themselves, even in the smallest matters. For example, as you open the door to your client, you might find that they always check “is this the right time for our appointment?” Another thing you may pick up on is, even after discussing something with them in detail, they want further clarification that they are hearing you right. Their confidence is so low that they have trouble making simple decisions. You need to be aware if this is happening, because you may be getting a glimpse of another severe symptom of narcissistic abuse called gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a technique of psychological abuse uses by narcissists in order to instill in their victims an extreme sense of anxiety and confusion to the point where they no longer trust their own memory, perception or judgment. Gaslighting can happen in any relationship between any gender. It merely requires two people, the gaslighter (the narcissist) and the gaslightee (the victim). The gaslighter needs to be right all the time, that is how they keep their power and sense of self intact; while the gaslightee gives away their power to the gaslighter because they seek their approval in order to stay safe. That exchange allows the gaslighter to define the gaslightee’s sense of reality.

“The Gaslighting Tango” is one of the narcissist’s games that happen gradually over time, it is a game (or dance) that allows them to define and shape their victim’s reality by eroding them mentally. To the victim, the gaslighting starts with the stage of disbelief, i.e. something happens in the gaslighting exchange that seems odd to them, and they can’t believe that it has happened. In the next state it moves to defense, at this point the victim still has enough of their self to fight and defend themselves against the gaslighting manipulation, however they are told things each time that end up confusing them, (i.e. “You’re too sensitive”, “are you mad”, or “I never said that, you’re imagining things?”).

Or the narcissist may play tricks on them, moving or hiding things, and when the victim asks them if they have moved the object, they deny it, saying they never saw it. Gradually the victim, unable to work out the game, finally begins to doubt themselves. The final stage is depression, and by now they don’t even recognize who they have become, and they feel broken and isolated. They begin to feel that they can’t do anything right anymore, they don’t feel that they can trust their own mind, and they withdraw with a skewed reality of what is really taking place.

The techniques for gaslighting are powerful mind-games. They are similar to certain forms of brainwashing, interrogation, and torture formally practiced by Central Intelligence Agencies and Religious Cults for decades. The narcissist uses gaslighting as a deliberate and cruel way to manipulate the victim into thinking that they are losing their mind. They bombard the victim with such uncertainty that eventually they are unable to trust their own perception anymore. When they reach this state, they begin to doubt everything about their own selves, their thoughts, their opinions, their ideas, their ideals. Often they think they are losing their minds, and they become very co-dependent on their abuser for a sense of reality.

This is a quick exploration of the complicated subject of Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, and hopefully, I have demonstrated the need for a therapist to have a good working knowledge of the “isms” of what Narcissist Personality Disorder entails. It is my opinion that without this knowledge the therapist would not be informed enough to be able to take the victim deep enough into their own story. They need to educate the victim about narcissistic behaviors so that they can make sense of the long painful journey they were on with their narcissist dance partner (whether it is a parent, sibling, friend, co-worker etc). Without putting these separate parts together (personal therapy and educational therapy), I fear that it would leave the victim vulnerable to future re-victimization.

Many victims seem to progress from crisis to crisis, making them particularly at high risk of re-victimization. This is because the victim will continue to attract narcissists like a moth to a flame because they have been well groomed in their responses, this leaves them looking like obvious willing partners to the convoluted dance with the narcissist. Of course, this is far from the truth, because the victim is totally unconscious of there being any dance going on, they are totally oblivious to the fact that they are a partner in the dance. This leaves them open to the danger of forming another dangerous liaison and be victimized yet again.

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GM Crops Found To Increase Yields And Reduce Harmful Toxins In 21 Years Of Data

A study looking at 21 years of data on genetically modified crops (GMOs) in the US has found that not only can they increase crop yields, but they can also be good for you.

Published in Scientific Reports, the team was led by Elisa Pellegrino from the Institute of Life Sciences in Italy. They conducted a meta-analysis of 6,006 peer-reviewed studies from 1996 to 2016 on maize that had been genetically engineered. Only 76 publications, however, met the researchers’ high standards for inclusion.

The results showed that genetically engineered (GE) maize produced a greater yield of 5.6 to 24.5 percent compared to non-GE maize. It resulted in lower concentrations of mycotoxins (−28.8 percent), fumonisin (−30.6 percent), and thricotecens (−36.5 percent). The former is toxic and carcinogenic in humans and animals. There were also no significant differences in grain quality, such as proteins, lipids, and fiber.

“The results support the cultivation of GE maize, mainly due to enhanced grain quality and reduction of human exposure to mycotoxins,” the team wrote in their paper.

Data came from GMO corn that had been planted in the United States, Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. They were based on 11,699 observations of production, grain quality, and more.

“This analysis provides an effective synthesis on a specific problem that is widely discussed publicly,” study co-author Laura Ercoli told the Italian newspaper La Republica. The researchers also noted that some studies showed the use of GMO corn has reduced the active ingredient of herbicides and insecticides by 10.1 percent and 45.2 percent respectively.

Previous reports have suggested that GMO crops do not produce yield increases, such as a criticized article in the New York Times in 2016. This latest study, however, seems to suggest the opposite.

“The Italian meta-analysis marks what could be a final chapter in an important facet of the ongoing debate over the use of GMOs in farming,” said the Genetic Literacy Project.

However, Biofortified noted that one drawback of the meta-analysis was that it grouped various GE traits of corn together. They noted that each type of GE trait “has benefits and drawbacks and typically must be considered individually.” The positives of the meta-analysis, though, seem to outweigh the other factors.

“Even with the limitations of what is available in the literature, this meta-analysis shows once again that crops produced with biotechnology are some of if not the most studied foods that we eat,” Biofortified noted.

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Why Have You Been Getting More Static Electric Shocks Recently?

Winter is starting to begin its long, slow goodbye across the Northern hemisphere (except for the UK, which is currently being smothered by some particularly bitter Siberian winds). Along with being the season of shivering and influenza, winter has yet another unpleasant shock up its sleeve, literally: It’s prime time for receiving static electric jolts.

If you’ve been wondering why you’ve turned into a human stun-gun recently, it’s not your imagination nor some superstition, there’s a perfectly straightforward explanation.

Static electricity is the buildup of electric charges on a material. An electrical charge can build up through frictional contact between two materials that are both insulators, like rubbing your hair against a balloon or your rubber-soled feet against a carpet. One object will lose electrons and have a positive charge, while the other will gain electrons and have a negative charge. The charges are desperate to balance themselves back out again, so if you touch a conductor, like a metal doorknob or a tap, the charge will discharge itself and let out a zap.

So, what’s weather got to do with this? Well, electricity finds it relatively hard to pass through air because it’s an electrical insulator. Water vapor in the air, however, conducts electricity nicely, allowing any charge that’s built up on our bodies to dissipate into the air.

The electrical imbalance tends to find it easier to make that “leap of faith” between you and a conductor in the winter months because colder air holds less water vapor than warm summer air. In the cold winter air, there’s no where for the charge to go, so it stays with us until we connect with a conductor.

Additionally, it’s also worth remembering that you are more likely to be wrapped in layers of wool, faux fur, or artificial fibers during the colder months. These materials are notorious for electrostatic stocks, especially compared to summery cotton, which is relatively non-static.

Now armed with this knowledge, there are a few things you can do to stop yourself being continuously jolted. First up, lift up those feet and stop shuffling around, just like your grandma told you. Ditch the wool clothes, if you can bear the cold, and stick to cotton clothing.

It’s also worth considering that an electrostatic zap is just electrons discharging themselves. If you frequently discharge the imbalance by making contact with a metal object, thereby stopping a buildup of charged electrons, then the shock is likely to be less severe. If it’s really bad, you could consider getting your house a humidifier that will lightly pump the air full of water vapor.

If all else fails, pray for some warm weather.

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Snow causes major disruption across UK

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Media captionLatest BBC Weather forecast with Phil Avery

Flights and trains have been cancelled and drivers stranded as sub-zero conditions continue across the UK.

Rail networks Southeastern, South Western and ScotRail advised people not to travel on their routes on Friday.

Thousands of properties were left without power across the south west of England, south Wales and the Midlands.

The Met Office’s red warning has been lifted but flood warnings remain in place in the south-west and north-east of England.

Services stopped leaving London Waterloo station just before 22:00 GMT with the South Western Railway network shutting down early.

Meanwhile, the RAC says that freezing rain could pose the biggest threat to drivers as black ice forms on roads.

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Media captionPiers Hanson walked down the tracks after receiving clearance from police

There were severe delays to services in Lewisham, south London after passengers stuck on four Southeastern trains “forced open” doors, left the carriages and started walking along the tracks.

The rail company said police and the fire service assisted in helping to restore power on the tracks and get trains moving again.

Major incidents were declared in Wiltshire, Hampshire and Avon and Somerset, as blizzards brought roads to a standstill.

The M62 near Manchester was closed while the military helped police free stranded motorists.

Around 100 cars were stuck on the A505 between Hitchin and Luton but were able to complete their journey after a few hours.

The body of a woman has been found during a search for missing 51-year-old hillwalker Alison Fox, who went walking in the Ochil Hills behind Menstrie, Clackmannanshire, on Thursday afternoon.

A police spokesman said formal identification had not yet taken place but Ms Fox’s family had been informed.

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Media captionNear miss bus driver Charmaine Laurie: “It looked worse on the video”

There are yellow weather warnings for snow, ice and wind in place across the UK throughout Friday and Saturday, with a Scottish warning in force until 23:55 GMT on Monday, but there are no more of the more serious amber alerts currently in place.

Prime Minister Theresa May has thanked everyone “going the extra mile”.

In Scotland the armed forces are transporting vital NHS staff to the hospitals where they work.

Electricity North West says it restored power to 20,000 homes in the north west of England but some rural areas could be without power overnight on Friday.

Image copyright Supt Toby Davies
Image caption Officers had the loan of poles to search for vehicles buried on the A386 in Devon

The Environment Agency has issued 15 flood warnings and 36 flood alerts for coastal areas in the south-west and north-east of England.

Severe flooding has been reported in Penzance, Cornwall, due to high river levels and swollen seas.

The Met Office said the UK has officially broken its record for the lowest temperatures in a 24-hour period in March.

Temperatures in the town of Tredegar in south Wales did not get above -5.2C on Thursday.

Police forces around the UK have told people to travel only if necessary.

There is a warning of black ice on the M6, while some of the worst problems are near Rochdale on the M62 – which is closed as stranded vehicles are cleared – and on the A303 near Ilminster and the A31 in the New Forest.

On the M62, volunteers from Milnrow, Rochdale, took hot drinks, food and blankets to some of those stuck – including a bottle of warm milk for a five-week-old baby.

Responding to a call for help on social media, farmers used their tractor to drive off-duty midwives to a woman who had gone into labour in the remote village of Balgedie, near Kinross which had been cut off by the snow.

In Cumbria, a farmer ran out of feed for his 4,000 hens near Penrith and asked for a route to be cleared.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Sian Lloyd reports from the Vale of Glamorgan
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Image caption Commuters in Cardiff were able to walk on a deserted dual carriageway
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption While passengers at London Waterloo rushed to get home before the last train

Commuters ‘almost jubilant’

By BBC transport correspondent Victoria Fritz

The more normal response to this level of travel disruption would be exasperation and even anger amongst marooned passengers.

But after a week of widespread chaos, the mood in Waterloo station on Friday at rush hour is almost jubilant.

The weekend is around the corner and many of the thousands here will be granted a temporary reprieve from doing daily battle with the railways.

The biggest gripe amongst passengers is that there has been precious little information of last minute changes to schedules.

Most are understanding of the extraordinary challenges track and train operators are facing.

Station staff are out in force and briefing passengers when they can. With the weather rapidly closing in, it’s a dash for all to get home before the clock strikes 22:00 GMT.

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Media captionDr Chris Marsh on his 10-mile walk to work

Much of Wales was brought to a standstill, where routine operations were cancelled as health boards made a plea for staff to attend work. Travel conditions in Scotland remain treacherous.

The Premier League has said games are expected to go ahead despite the weather. However, four matches in the Championship and two games in the Scottish Premiership have been cancelled.

Image copyright PA
Image caption A pub landlord in Greater Manchester battles against the snow at his front door

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Media captionIce blocks Birmingham’s canals
Image copyright PA
Image caption But these horses braved the elements at a farm in Snetterton, Norfolk

What is happening with the trains?

Across the UK, more than 20 rail operators are running a reduced service. National Rail has been advising passengers to check their service before travelling. Some train operators urged people not to travel at all.

  • Virgin Trains is not running any services north of Newcastle on Saturday, with their route between Carlisle and Scotland – affecting the London to Glasgow and London to Edinburgh routes – closed with no replacement buses running
  • Arriva Trains Wales has said a limited service will run on Saturday and passengers have been advised only to travel if essential up until Monday morning. There are limited trains between Shrewsbury and Crewe, Crewe and Chester, Chester and Holyhead, Wrexham and Bidston and Swansea and Carmarthen
  • Great Western Railway said there will be a limited timetable with no services between Cheltenham and Paddington, and the North Downs trains have been cancelled
  • Heathrow Express services between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport will run three times an hour
  • East Midlands Trains are running a reduced timetable with no trains between Lincoln Central and Grimsby Town, and between Sleaford and Skegness
  • On the Northern network, there are no services between Leeds and Carlisle/Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester Airport, and Hazel Grove and Buxton. It warns passengers of possible timetable changes throughout Saturday
  • ScotRail aims to have several of its routes operational from early morning on Saturday but advises passengers to check before they travel
  • CrossCountry is not running trains between Birmingham and the South West and, Birmingham and Cardiff until after 09:00 GMT. No services will operate between Newcastle and Scotland and trains between Reading and Southampton/Bournemouth are not expected to run until mid afternoon
  • Southeastern railway said it will run an amended timetable on Saturday and services will start later after track inspections

How are the airports affected?

Image copyright PA

More than 1,250 flights were cancelled across the UK and Ireland on Friday.

  • Glasgow Airport: Open after “the worst snowfall in its history” but still warns of delays and cancellations
  • Edinburgh Airport: Ryanair will resume its full schedule of flights after a day of cancellations on Friday
  • Dublin Airport: Most flights will start later on Saturday but passengers are urged to check before they travel
  • Cardiff Airport: The airport will be closed until Saturday morning
  • Bristol Airport: There were significant disruptions on Friday and passengers are advised to contact their airline before travelling
  • East Midlands Airport: After a day of cancellations and delays, the airport is expected to be fully operational
  • Leeds Bradford: The airport is open but is experiencing delays
  • Heathrow Airport: The airport advises passengers to check before travelling
  • Gatwick Airport: There are delays and cancellations
  • City Airport: The runway was closed on Friday because of the snow and the airline advises passengers that delays and cancellations could be likely
  • Birmingham Airport: Runway unlikely to reopen before Saturday morning with travellers warned to check with their airline

What is the forecast?

The Met Office says the cold weather could last into next week and possibly the following week.

Up to 50cm (19 inches) of snow is forecast in parts of Dartmoor, Exmoor and uplands parts of south-east Wales accompanied by gales or severe gales in exposed areas.

Gusts of 60-70mph are possible in parts of northern England and Wales.

Up to 10cm (four inches) of snow is forecast in parts of Scotland and northern England, with up to 25cm over the area’s hills.

How has the cold weather affected you? Share your pictures, video and experiences by emailing

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers

President expands on idea to arm some teachers in schools and says gun-adept teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly

The White House indicated on Thursday that the federal government could come up with the money to fund as many as a million teachers being trained and armed with guns across America in a controversial attempt to keep schools safe from more mass shootings.

This followed repeated assertions from Donald Trump during earlier meetings at the White House, as well as in presidential tweets, that his response to the school massacre in Florida last week is to arm teachers and sports coaches.

It would be a great deterrent to killers, he said.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, was asked if it was practical to expect teachers to carry concealed handguns to protect their students from shooters.

When you have a horrific situation, what you think and do not think is practical can change, Shah said.

Teachers unions have expressed shock and skepticism that any such plan could be feasible or effective.

But at a meeting at the White House with state and local officials early Thursday afternoon, Trump talked of paying bonuses to some teachers, providing highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns … [with] a concealed permit.

He suggested paying bonuses to armed, trained teachers, suggesting that 10, 20, 40% of teachers could be qualified to do so, especially retired military personnel.

I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected, he said.

The White House was later challenged that 40% of Americas teachers being given a bonus of, for example, $1,000, would mean $1bn being distributed to a million of them.

Do you really think thats too much to pay for school safety? Shah responded. Shah said Trump would soon be talking to members of Congress about legislative and budgetary proposals.

Trump had earlier appeared to speak outagainst the kind of active shooter drills that are becoming the norm in many schools.

Active shooter drills is a very negative thing … Ill be honest with you. If Im a child, Im 10 years old and they say … Were going to have an active shooter drill, I say Whats that? Well, People may come in and shoot you … I think thats a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I dont like it. Id much rather have a hardened school,he said.

But Shah explained that it was the frightening name the president disliked, not the drills themselves, and was in favor of calling them a safety drill.

He confirmed that Trump is considering supporting a rise in the age limit for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, but does not support banning assault weapons for US civilians outright. Students who survived the shooting at their high school in Parkland last week quickly began a fierce campaign calling for that measure.

In contrast to the combative tone coming from the administration, the Parkland mayor, Christine Hunschofsky, addressed safety and mental health in her meeting with Trump on Thursday, and then alluded to the assault rifle used by shooter Nikolas Cruz in last Wednesdays massacre, saying: In the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm?

Play Video

Angry father of Florida victim asks Trump: ‘How many children have to get shot?’ video

At an emotional session at the White House on Wednesday, the US president held a listening session with survivors of last weeks Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, telling them that armed teachers and school coaches could very well end the attack very quickly.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted: 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.

Trump said having so-called gun-free zones around schools created a situation for school shooters like going in for the ice cream.

At Wednesdays meeting, Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son, Dylan, died at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, spoke out against arming teachers. I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place,she said.

Randi Weingarten, president of theAmerican Federation of Teachers union said in a statement:Anyone who wants guns in schools has no understanding of what goes on inside them or worse, doesnt care.

Barack Obama weighed in on Thursday, tweeting: Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe.


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Democrats Flip Two Seats in Connecticut and New Hampshire, Bringing Trump-Era Total to 39

Two Democrats won state legislative contests on Tuesday night, flipping the seats from Republican hands and marking the 38th and 39th legislative flips since President Trump's inauguration. Democrats have now also flipped six this year alone.

Democrat Phil Spagnuolo won a special election in New Hampshire's Belknap County District 3 on Tuesday night 968-841 (54%-46%).

The contest for this state House race pitted Spagnuolo, a substance abuse recovery coach, against Republican Les Cartier, a former employee at the state fire marshal's office. The seat was left open after the death of Republican State Rep. Donald Flanders last September. Donald Trump won the district by a sizable 54-41 margin in 2016, four years after Barack Obama carried it by just one point, 50-49.

Democrat Phil Young won a contest in Connecticut's state House District 120 as well, a seat that had been held by Republicans for 40 years.

The race in House District 120 was a result of a vacancy when former State Rep. Laura Hoydick, a Republican, resigned after becoming mayor of Stratford. It pitted Young against Republican Bill Cabral, both of whom were former Town Council members. In the 2016 presidential election, the district voted for Hillary Clinton by a small margin 49-47, despite the fact that she beat President Trump statewide by nearly 14 points.

The Democratic flips tonight add to a string of recent victories for the party in state legislative races. Last week, Democrat Linda Belcher won back her seat in Kentuckys state House District 49, which had favored Trump by nearly 50 points. It was the 37th legislative flip since Trumps inauguration and the fourth this year, following a win by Margaret Good in Floridas 72nd District the previous week. There have been additional flips in Missouri and Wisconsin earlier this year as well.

Another race on Tuesday night took place in Kentuckys state House District 89. Democrat Kelly Smith, a librarian, faced off against Republican Robert Goforth, a pharmacist for the seat vacated by former Republican Rep. Marie Rader who resigned due to health concerns. Trump won the district in 2016 by a margin of 79-17. Goforth prevailed on Tuesday but by a smaller margin of 33 points.

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5 Awesome Sci-Fi Movie Technologies That’d Suck In Real Life

Why are we still driving non-flying cars to our non-space workplaces while fantasizing about our merely two-boobed prostitutes? Where are all the snazzy gadgets and awesome technologies movies promised us? In many cases, they’re right here. We just don’t use them because, well, they kinda suck. Like how …


Controlling Computers With Hand Gestures Is Awful

In Minority Report, Tom Cruise plays a future cop who tries to warn everyone that Max von Sydow is evil, but no one will believe him, even though he’s clearly Max von Sydow. But what most people remember best are the scenes wherein Cruise controls his futuristic crime lab computer by waving his arms around.

How cool is that? Instead of having to say “enhance” and then clicking a boring old mouse, Cruise picks up files and videos from the air itself, and explores them using simple gestures. Soon, other movies were jumping in on this hot futuristic action. From Iron Man 2

Marvel Studios

… to Prometheus

20th Century FoxSpoilers: This movie will show up a lot in this article.

… to Star Trek: Discovery.

CBS Television StudiosThank you in advance for the 100 comments about how this one’s not a movie.

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

As everyone who has ever owned a Kinect knows, this crap gets old fast. The biggest issue is that your arms get tired very quickly if you hold them up for even a short period of time. If you make that a long time, the feeling gets absolutely excruciating. Engineers actually identified this problem in the ’80s, and even gave it a name: the “gorilla arm” effect. You know, because your arms get “sore, cramped, and oversized,” and you end up looking and feeling like a gorilla. Not even a cool sci-fi cyborg gorilla like in Congo.

Take another look at that Minority Report scene. When Cruise goes to shake Colin Farrell’s hand, he accidentally moves a bunch of files he’s working on. That would happen all the time. Imagine you’re holding 350 slides that took you five hours to organize and you suddenly get an itch on your butt:

20th Century FoxOr any other activity where you might be shaking your hand while staring at your screen …

Any interface that lies flat and gives you a wide range of control — even if you only move your hands a few inches — would beat this thing … hands down. If only we had something like that!


Sci-Fi Holograms Are Inferior To 2D Images In Almost Every Way

If somebody in a sci-fi movie needs to look at something important, a paltry two dimensions simply will not do. They need holograms for absolutely everything, even when audio alone would do the job. Like in Star Wars, when R2-D2 shows Leia’s holographic recording to a horned up Luke:

LucasfilmWhile Obi-Wan silently screams on the inside.

Here it is again in The Last Starfighter:

Universal Pictures

And here’s a dude’s head popping out of a monitor on Star Trek: Discovery:

CBS Television Studios

Hell, even the highly advanced race of spacefaring giants who created mankind love holograms! From Prometheus:

20th Century FoxYou need to adjust the tracking on your Space Voldemort.

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

You may have noticed something about the holograms above: They A) look like crap, B) are completely pointless, or C) both. That pretty much sums up holograms in the real world, too. Remember that time Tupac’s blue ghost crashed a Snoop Dogg performance? And remember how the company responsible went bankrupt soon thereafter? Turns out there isn’t much real use for blurry, semi-transparent 3D projections that cause eye strain if you look at them for too long.

Even the nicest example is so fuzzy and transparent that it’s not clear why you would bother with it over a 2D video feed. In the 2017 Ghost In The Shell, a hologram is used to reconstruct a murder scene, but it’s so imprecise (red tint, kinda blurry, semi-transparent) that it’s hard to think of a use for it other than making up for the investigator’s chronic lack of imagination.

Paramount Pictures“Ohhh, that’s what tables look like. OK, I’m good.”

In Prometheus (again!), the Weyland Corporation’s holograms don’t have a tint, but they’re so transparent that everyone on the crew probably ended up with a migraine anyway.

20th Century Fox“Oh, I thought it was the script causing that.”

If you absolutely need to communicate visual information over a vast distance, why would you choose this technology? Think of the bandwidth charges! We already know the future doesn’t have Net Neutrality.


Nobody Likes Video Calls (Except In The Movies)

With the possible exception of flying cars and sex-bots, no technology shows up in sci-fi movies as often as video calls. Whether they’re discussing something of galaxy-shattering importance or reminding their spouse to buy eggs, everybody in the future does everything via video calls. We see it in …

Marvel StudioGuardians Of The Galaxy

Warner Bros. PicturesDemolition Man

TriStar PicturesTotal Recall (the good one)

Columbia PicturesTotal Recall (the Colin Farrell one)

Paramount PicturesStar Trek Into Darkness

… and like a million other movies. We’ll stop now, or we’ll be here all day.

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

We are! Video calling is finally a reality! And it sucks. Seriously, unless it’s for Twitch streaming, nobody uses it. And it’s easy to see why.

You can take voice calls in almost any situation where you can talk, but if you take a video call, you have to look like a decently dressed, reasonably groomed human being. Plus, you have to make sure you didn’t leave something like, say, a giant pink dildo visible in the background. Which has happened. On the BBC.

And yet sci-fi characters love this technology so much that they’ll literally risk their lives to use it. In 2017’s Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, right as the characters are leaving a planet’s orbit, the face of their boss pops up smack dab in the middle of their ship’s front viewport. That could kill you while you’re driving a car, let alone piloting a spaceship.

EuropaCorp“Just called to remind you that driving and Skyping is illegal. Also, you’re fired.”


Super Advanced Robots Always Have Needlessly Terrible Vision

One of the coolest types of shots is when we go inside a robot’s head to see the way they look at the world. Like in the Terminator movies, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger sees everything through a badass red filter, with a bunch of important-looking numbers and text readouts:

TriStar PicturesWhy isn’t the text in Austrian, though?

Or the recent RoboCop remake, where the Robo-Vision (that’s the official name, look it up) shows everything in an old-timey reddish sepia tone, with, again, added text and data prompts:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer“08 threats and 15 cliches detected.”

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

Look at any decent first-person shooting game. The status bars and prompts are always minimal and in the corners of the screen. If they took up 30 percent of your monitor, like in the examples above, the developers would have angry nerds with actual guns outside their houses. All those big letters and numbers are covering up important visual information, allowing AmishTeabaggz42069 to sneak up and shoot you in the head. And what are they even there for? Terminators have computers for brains. Why do they need to see the data they themselves are processing?

On top of that, the obligatory red tint makes these killer robots effectively colorblind, and prevents them from easily distinguishing between, say, blood and other liquids, which you’d think would be important in their line of work. At the other end of the spectrum, we have medical robots like Baymax from Big Hero 6, whose internal HUD looks like this:

Walt Disney Pictures“Slack-jawed and dumb-looking … perfectly healthy for a teen boy.”

All those widgets are probably helpful for a robot that patches up humans, but that blue tint … isn’t. Baymax needs to see his patients as accurately as possible, not just to identify any physical symptoms, but also to make treatment easier. It’s been demonstrated that blue light hinders injections, since it’s harder to find a vein under the patient’s skin.

Meanwhile, in Chappie, the law-enforcing robots that patrol the streets are all apparently equipped with crappy late ’90s webcams. Imagine trying to shoot the correct criminal if this was what you saw:

Columbia PicturesCan robots get motion sickness?

To be fair, all these examples are still an improvement over 1973’s Westworld, wherein the highly advanced Yul Brynner robot, whose sole purpose is to shoot people in gunfights, can’t even tell a fork from a spoon.

Metro-Goldwyn-MayerSporks make their heads explode.


Computer Screens In Science Fiction Movies Are Worse Than The Ones We Have Today

In sci-fi movies, computer screens are elaborate displays of carefully matched colors and captivating animations (even when no one’s using them). They’re all packed with graphs and numbers and all sorts of doubtlessly essential information. Marvel at the snazzy monitors in 2009’s Star Trek

Paramount Pictures

… and Avatar

20th Century Fox

… and naturally, good ol’ Prometheus:

20th Century Fox

Why We’re Not Using This Today:

We lose ten minutes of work time every time a pigeon lands outside our window. If you had to do your job next to a bunch of huge screens that kept looping through colorful graphics, you’d probably get quite distracted. And if your own screen insisted on performing a lovely animation every time you updated some data or asked for an analysis, you’d probably start daydreaming about Microsoft Excel for the first time in your life.

In almost every sense, these sci-fi screens are a huge step backwards compared to what we have now. Nearly all of them have low contrast (making it harder to read things at a glance) and a grand total of four colors, all of which are usually variations of blue and green. The Avengers:

Marvel StudiosThis would look better if they were all playing Galaga.

Mars (a National Geographic miniseries):

National Geographic


20th Century PicturesLast time, we promise!

Not only does this mean that you run out of ways to highlight important stuff quickly, but the preponderance of blue and lack of red tones can even be dangerous. See, when your eyes have adapted to a dark environment, light of any color except red will disrupt that adaptation. This is called the Purkinje effect. That’s why interfaces for things like submarines and airplanes use a lot of red, which allows, for example, pilots flying at night to clearly see both the screen and the view outside their cockpit. But on the other hand, blue looks neater, so that’s a fair tradeoff.

These sci-fi screens fail at the most basic function of a user interface: conveying information quickly and easily. Everything important is hidden in dense blocks of tiny text and numbers scattered around the screen. The only way the following screenshots make sense is if the characters have superhuman vision or magnifying glasses:

Marvel StudiosThe Avengers

Paramount PicturesStar Trek Beyond

20th Century PicturesAvatar

For comparison, here is a real-life NASA mission control room:


Note the lack of flashy animated visualizations. The multiple high-contrast colors. The text that is readable when you’re at the intended distance. And Earth has yet to be attacked by alien invaders. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

Prometheus isn’t a bad movie, but please make sure you’ve seen Alien before watching Prometheus. We talk about that movie a lot on this site too.

If you loved this article and want more content like this, support our site with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

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Apple Plans Giant High-End iPhone, Lower-Priced Model

Apple Inc. is preparing to release a trio of new smartphones later this year: the largest iPhone ever, an upgraded handset the same size as the current iPhone X and a less expensive model with some of the flagship phone’s key features.

With the new lineup, Apple wants to appeal to the growing number of consumers who crave the multitasking attributes of so-called phablets while also catering to those looking for a more affordable version of the iPhone X, according to people familiar with the products.

Apple, which is already running production tests with suppliers, is expected to announce the new phones this fall. The plans could still change, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning.

Despite months of breathless hype, the iPhone X hasn’t sold as well as expected since its debut last year. Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones in the final quarter of 2017, below analysts’ projections of 80.2 million units. Some consumers were turned off by the iPhone X’s $1,000 price despite liking the design but wanted something more cutting-edge than the cheaper iPhone 8. With its next lineup, Apple is seeking to rekindle sales by offering a model for everyone.

“This is a big deal,” says Gene Munster, a co-founder of Loup Ventures and a long-time Apple watcher. “When you have a measurable upgrade in screen size, people go to update their phone in droves. We saw that with the iPhone 6, and we think this is setting up to be a similar step up in growth.”

Munster predicts a supercycle — which he defines as upgrades by 10 percent or more of Apple’s existing iPhone customers. “The market that will see the biggest jump in sales is likely Asia,” he says. “That market has many single-device consumers, and they love big phones.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment. The shares gained 2.1 percent to $179.18 at 2:16 p.m. in New York.

Read more: How Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 compares to the iPhone X

With a screen close to 6.5 inches, Apple’s big new handset will be one of the largest mainstream smartphones on the market. While the body of the phone will be about the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus, the screen will be about an inch larger thanks to the edge-to-edge design used in the iPhone X. (Apple is unlikely to refer to the phone as a phablet, a term popularized by Samsung.)

The larger screen should especially appeal to business users, letting them write emails and manage spreadsheets on a screen about as big as a small tablet. Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the new handset will probably enable split-screen modes for certain apps. Still, the larger phone could cannibalize iPad sales, a category that recently started growing again.

The big phone is code named D33, a person familiar with its development says, and at least some prototypes include a screen resolution of 1242 x 2688. That would make the screen about as sharp as the one on the 5.8-inch iPhone X. Apple also plans to use OLED technology, the same, more expensive type of screen in the regular iPhone X.

Like the iPhone X, the larger model will include a Face ID scanner that unlocks the device and enables payments. Apple is also preparing an update to the regular-sized iPhone X that is internally dubbed D32, people familiar with the product said. Both of these phones are expected to use next-generation A12 processors and will continue to include stainless steel edges, they say, and will be Apple’s high-end smartphone offerings.

Apple is considering a gold color option for the update to the iPhone X and the larger model. The company tried to develop gold for the current X handset, but abandoned it because of production problems. All new iPhones since the 5s came in gold, including the iPhone 8. The gold option is especially appealing to consumers in Asia and may help boost sales in the region. Still, Apple may ultimately decide not to proceed with the color.

In at least some regions, Apple is considering offering a dual-SIM card option for the larger model. That would let people use their phones in countries with different carrier plans without having to swap out cards. Such a feature has been growing in importance and popularity, especially in Europe and Asia where business people routinely visit multiple countries.

Apple hasn’t made a final decision on including the feature and could choose to wait for E-SIM technology, which will connect phones to multiple networks without the need for a removable chip. Apple has wanted to offer E-SIM technology (it already exists in the iPad and Apple Watch), but some carriers are resistant to including it in iPhones, and Apple needs their support. A dual-SIM capability would provide a compromise.

The phones will have an updated operating system, probably called iOS 12 and code named Peace, which will include upgraded augmented reality capabilities, deeper integration of the Siri digital assistant, digital health monitoring and the ability to use Animojis in FaceTime.

Apple’s decision to also build a cheaper phone is an acknowledgment that the current entry-level 8 models too closely resemble the iPhone 6 introduced back in 2014. With their thick bezels and lack of edge-to-edge screens, they seem dated next to the iPhone X and the latest Samsung devices. The new lower-cost model will feature the same edge-to-edge screen as the iPhone X as well as Face ID instead of a fingerprint sensor.

“It’s good that they’re rounding out the product line” with a less expensive phone, Munster says. But he doesn’t think it will have a measurable impact on demand because many consumers will want the bigger model.

To keep costs down, the cheaper phone will use LCD screen technology similar to the type employed in the iPhone 8. It will also have aluminum edges and a glass back like the iPhone 8, not the flashier stainless steel used in the iPhone X.

Apple has tried selling cheaper phones in the past with poor results. In 2013, the company debuted the iPhone 5c, which had a polycarbonate body and came in various colors. Consumers quickly discovered that for a mere $100 more they could buy a 5s, which had an aluminum body, a slow-motion video camera and a fingerprint scanner. Apple soon discontinued the 5c.

For more on the iPhone, check out the podcast:

This time, the company is trying something different: using a cheaper body but including the features — Face ID and an edge-to-edge screen — that consumers most prize.

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    Farrah Abraham Has A Bitter AF Final Message To Her Teen Mom OG Costars!

    Farrah’s revenge!

    As we reported, after Farrah Abraham had a falling out with Teen Mom OG producers,the controversial reality TV star was replaced by Teen Mom 3 star MacKenzie McKee.

    To make matters more complicated, the mother is suing producer Morgan J. Freeman and Viacom for at least $5 million over porn shaming allegations.

    Related: Kailyn Lowry Applauds MTV For Firing David Eason!

    On Friday, the 26-year-old issued a final statement to her costars, and not surprisingly, its bitter and salty AF!

    According to

    “I wish all the women of Teen Mom the best as their jealousy, hatred, and women-hating should stop and more so lift up and empower women… This show lacks [confidence], [security], honesty, and integrity, which is why the adults of this show must be controlled and puppeteered by producers and staff.”

    The 16 and Pregnant alum says she’s even concerned about the safety and well-being of Catelynn Lowell, Maci Bookout, and Amber Portwood‘s children!

    “The effect on their children is concerning… I deeply hope the mothers and fathers take their children’s development and safety more serious… As I start a new chapter, I wish all the families the best in safety and health.”

    To conclude, the Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom actress gives a really weird quote about changing the world and society. WTF is she talking about??

    “To make a change in society, ‘see something say something’… Many aren’t leaders and making world changes. I chose this life, I will always continue to make this world a better place above all the lies and attacks against me… I think I’ve done this better than most in reality TV.”‘

    Farrah has left the building…

    [Image via Farrah Abraham/Instagram.]

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    Cambodias Leopards Are On The Brink Of Extinction

    In Cambodia, the world’s last breeding population of Indochinese leopards is on the brink of extinction.

    Once widespread across Indochina – an area encompassing Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam – Indochinese leopard populations have declined by 72 percent over a five-year period. A study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal revealed one of the lowest concentrations of leopards ever reported in Asia – just one cat per 100 square kilometers (39 square miles).

    “This population represents the last glimmer of hope for leopards in all of Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam – a subspecies on the verge of blinking out,” said study co-author Dr Jan Kamler in a statement. “No longer can we, as an international community, overlook conservation of this unique wild cat.”

    News of the decreased population comes just two years after researchers announced the Indochinese leopard lost more than 95 percent of its range. Now, researchers estimate there are just over 1,000 breeding adults in Southeast Asia and expect the IUCN to list the subspecies as “critically endangered” this year.   

    Leopards are threatened by a number of things, nearly all of which are human-related. Illegal hunting to meet the world’s rising demand of bushmeat means poachers indiscriminately set snares that can capture and kill them, as well as decline their natural food sources.

    As tiger populations continue to decrease, researchers say poachers are also turning to leopard skins and other body parts to sell through the illegal wildlife trade.

    Oddly enough, this decline in tigers is providing space for the highly-adaptable and opportunistic leopards to fill a predatory void. Scientists found that leopards are feeding on banteng, a species of wild cattle five times larger than the leopard. They’re the only leopard that targets such a large prey and believe the cats have shifted their prey targets after local tiger populations went extinct in 2009.

    From snow leopards to pumas, big cats on every continent are facing increasing pressures – and the world is beginning to pay attention.

    “The story is similar for all the big cats,” said UN Secretary‑General António Guterres in a statement. “They are collectively under threat from habitat loss, climate change, poaching, illicit trafficking, and human‑wildlife conflict. We are the cause of their decline, so we can also be their salvation.”

    The United Nations has dedicated its annual World Wildlife Day on March 3 to big cats under the banner “Big Cats: Predators Under Threat”.

    “As the world gathers to celebrate World Wildlife Day this Saturday, we must band together in action, not just in words, to curb the epidemic of poaching facing this gorgeous big cat and others around the globe,” said Kamler.







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    Teachers start powerful #ArmMeWith movement to speak out against guns in classrooms

    In the wake of yet another tragic school shooting, teachers have started an eye-opening movement on social media to let the world know what preventative measures really need to be taken seriously to protect students.

    In response to the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that some teachers receive gun training so they can be armed in their classrooms. But rather than adding more guns to educational environments, teachers are using the hashtag #ArmMeWith to share far more peaceful resources they wish to be armed with, such as school supplies, mental health resources and funding, impactful changes in curriculum, and stronger gun control legislation.

    The movement was started by two educators: Brittany Wheaton, a teacher in Utah, andOlivia Bertels from Kansas. Both 27-year-olds met through Instagram, according to Buzzfeed, and eagerly asked the online teacher community to share their personal thoughts on how to ensure the safety and proper education of students.

    Teachers across the U.S. have been using the hashtag.

    One high school English teacher requested a “curriculum that tells the truth, the ability to teach the truth, a society that believes the truth, and political leaders who make laws based on the truth.”

    Others asked to be armed with more on-site mental health professionals, like school counselors and social workers, as well as self-care classes, bullet-proof glass, an enhanced library, and a range of other resources that focus on the physical, mental, and emotional care of students and faculty members.

    #Armmewith is a movement by @thesuperheroteacher and @missbertels_ and I invite you to join in! Skip through my pics and post your own (I’ve included a blank template) or go to goo.go/52XggF to print your own out! . . . The Arm Me With movement is to make our leaders aware of what teachers really need in the classroom. As some of you know, I’m a gun owner and I can shoot a gun, but I do not believe guns belong anywhere near a classroom. Teachers have enough burdens and the classroom is an unpredictable place. Also teachers are outnumbered by kids 30:1 oftentimes. Guns are not the solution here, and I think they’d be catastrophic. Please flip through my ideal solutions and feel free to use the blank picture to create your own solution! . . . . . . #armwithme #schoolsafetynow #educatorsagainstgunviolence #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers

    A post shared by The Whimsical Teacher (@the_whimsical_teacher) on

    “Since teachers are the individuals in the classroom when it happens, I like to think we know what’s best for our students,” Wheatontold Buzzfeed. “If you’re an educator, you know that [more guns] is not a solution to stopping the violence that’s happening in our schools.”

    For those looking to participate in the movement, Wheaton has shared a blank #ArmMeWith template that can be downloaded and filled out. 

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    Millennial Viagra Startup Hims Is Now Worth $200 Million

    Hims, a San Francisco-based e-commerce startup selling men’s wellness products, has raised $40 million in funding from venture firms IVP and Redpoint Ventures, according to sources familiar with the deal. The new round values Hims at $200 million not including the funding, the sources said.

    Launched in late 2017, Hims has already sold around $10 million worth of products for baldness and erectile dysfunction, according to a source. The company, which did not comment on the funding, has been called a “Goop for men.”

    Hims is proof of how quickly a direct-to-consumer business—one selling items exclusively online—can go from zero to millions in sales with an Instagram-friendly brand, a good digital marketing strategy, and some venture funding. Hims follows in the footsteps of Warby Parker, the online glasses startup, and Casper, the online mattress startup. Now there’s a direct-to-consumer brand for just about every product in one’s medicine cabinet, from contact lenses (Hubble) and acne products (Curology) to birth control (Nurx), braces (Candid), electric toothbrushes (Quip) and vitamins (Ritual).

    Within the niche of millennial male insecurities, Hims is not alone. The company competes with Keeps, a hair loss-focused startup, and Roman, a startup aimed at treating erectile dysfunction. Both have raised a small amount of venture funding.

    Hims’ sleek branding tells men that baldness and erectile dysfunctional are “optional.” “Prevention. More effective than denial,” the website declares, illustrating the point with a phallic cactus in a clay pot.

    Hims had previously raised $7 million in venture funding from Thrive Capital, Forerunner Ventures and SV Angel, according to Crunchbase.

    If You Buy It

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