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.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/17/donald-trump-parkland-smiling-thumbs-up-obama/

‘Vanderpump Rules’ Recap: It’s Not About The Pasta

I’ll be real with you guys, I don’t have a fun or clever way to segue into this week’s episode, so I’ll just dive right in.

Actually no, let’s not dive in. I’m re-watching the tail end of last episode, and Jax is seriously the worst. Watching him gaslight Brittany again is making me homicidal. It makes me so sad and angry that Brittany is staying with him. Like, I understand that money might be tempting, but is it worth it for your mental health? *Googles how much these people make per episode*

We open this episode with Stassi at SUR picking out some outfits for the Pride Parade party, so I guess Bravo is still pretending that Stassi is a legit event planner. Do you think you can put “fake event planner, Bravo TV” on your resume?

Lisa: I need all the hands I can get during Pride, even Stassi’s grubby little mitts.

Unpopular opinion: I’m not sure how much I love Lisa anymore. She just finds any reason to be a bitch to people two decades younger than her. Why don’t you pick on someone your own age? Isn’t that what you have for?

Oh, Peter is into essential oils and Reiki? He just used the phrase “I have all my chakras aligned” in earnest? I have never lost my attraction to a person so fast, not even when they tell me they’re from New Jersey. For the inevitable commenter who asks, “I’m from Jersey, what’s your beef with my state?” may I kindly direct you to my previous recaps?

Why do I feel like Jax is going to scam on this Reiki healer in like, two episodes’ time?

I want the record to show I typed that before Sandoval said it. Thank you, thank you, that’s why they pay me the big bucks to write these recaps. Aka I get paid zero extra money for doing them; I just do it for the love of the game.

All the girls are getting Botox together. My friends and I just go to brunch, but okay. 

Scheana is still sticking to the “My boyfriend couldn’t have kissed another girl, he doesn’t even make out with me” as a good argument. Honey, no. That’s not a good argument! That just means he isn’t into you.

Scheana: Can we just like stop talking about this and never speak of it again?

Everyone:

Stassi, Katie, Brittany and Kristen are at some cinema low-key trying to hook Brittany up with the waiter. They may be crazy bitches, but they’re good friends. But tbh I bet Jax is going to like, mentally fuck Brittany back to 1993 when he watches this exchange play out on camera and use it as retroactive justification for his cheating. Somebody please go check on Brittany and make sure she’s okay.

Meanwhile, James and Lala are at some restaurant that apparently sells Welch’s grape soda and gin. Snoop Dogg would be disgraced.

James: I’ve been trying to cut down the drinking

Also James: To getting drunk! *takes two huge shots in 20 seconds*

Also ALSO James: I could easily stop drinking at any time.

Hmm where have I heard that before? Oh right, 8th grade health class and every episode of ever. 

Wait so Lala tells James that she ate Raquel’s pasta and now James is going full psycho like “Don’t fuck with my bitch, or I’ll fuck with your fat man and he’ll be onto his next pretty blonde.”

Lala is calmly trying to explain the joke about the pasta (which for the record I don’t think was funny to begin with so really this is all Lala’s fault) and it does not go well. Lala stands up for herself and storms out, and I don’t think James even remembers what he said to make her so mad a full two seconds ago. This is so fucking dumb. Is it about the pasta? Or is it not? SOMEBODY HELP ME!

James: It’s not about the pasta! *turns away* *two seconds later* It’s not about the pasta! *turns away* *two seconds later* It’s not about the pasta!

And rinse and repeat for an hour until the screen fades to black and it says “Executive Producer Lisa Vanderpump.”

Just kidding, but I wish. *This joke has been brought to you by John Mulaney*

Back at SUR, Scheana confronts Ariana and Brittany to find out if Katie was talking shit about her. Oh my god, she’s so annoying. Just accept that other people are going to talk shit about you. Talking shit literally pays your bills.

Scheana: *brings up the Rob cheating rumors*

Scheana 2 seconds later: OMG CAN WE STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS ALREADY *storms out*

Sandoval and Schwartz show up to the wreckage that is to be Tom Tom, because according to Sandoval, they’re putting in less money into their investment so they’re going to compensate with sweat equity. I feel like a better idea would be for you to just like, not compromise the structural integrity of this building with your dumb asses.

Anyone who says Kristen is reformed and sane now needs to take every seat as she describes how she literally tracks Carter’s every move via GPS while everybody else in the room just lets her drone on about her NSA-esque surveillance tactics without acknowledging her in any way.

Schwartz stayed over at Sandoval’s (a no-no) because he got too wasted (another no-no) and instead of starting a fight about it when he came home, Katie just let it go. Schwartz says “I feel like I fell in love with you all over again” because Katie lets him blow through her (very reasonable) boundaries with no consequences. God, I fucking hate men.

I don’t know why Lisa is volunteering to become Katie and Tom’s marriage counselor. “Not my circus, not my monkeys” – my favorite expression I found on the internet that I’d be employing the fuck out of in this situation.

Watching Kristen try to explain Pride is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. “We’re out here because love is love and to everyone who doesn’t think love is love, suck a dick.” Probs not the best turn of phrase to use in this context. I’m just saying.

Rob comes in to SUR and Scheana gives him the grand tour: “And here’s where I yelled at Brittany and Ariana, and here’s where I told everyone to stop talking about the rumors about you making out with someone.” But tell me more how you don’t want to talk about it ever again.

Scheana: I lost my smile this week.

Funny coincidence, I lost my dinner just now.

At SUR, Stassi is telling the guys to put paint on their face. Sandoval is like “Oh hell yeah I’ve been practicing my contour for weeks now.”

Scheana hugs Lala and is 1) TALKING ABOUT THE RUMORS AGAIN *looks for something with which to fashion a noose out of* and 2) telling Lala Rob said “Don’t let anyone take your smile” which we all saw HER say. Scheana, what’s it like to live in another reality? Asking for a friend myself.

Okay but I’m not sure how I feel about Lala accusing Scheana of relapsing with her eating disorder, because like, that’s a sensitive topic and you shouldn’t just throw that around willy-nilly. And even if that is the case, IDK, I feel like there are certain lines you don’t cross, even for TV. But what do I know, I guess I’m just old fashioned.

Billie Lee gets up in the middle of pride to give a speech about being trans, and holy shit, this girl is brave. I will be quietly monitoring her Instagram comments for any trolls. If you wanna come for Billie, you’re gonna have to go through me. …An anonymous internet writer. YEAH.

So James body slammed on Jax’s crotch and now he’s almost making out with Logan while Raquel watches in the corner, horrified. Just saying, I called this from episode one. I just want James to be his authentic self, ya know?

Watching James buy Logan vodka Red Bulls and kiss him on the cheek while Raquel texts by herself in a corner reminds me a lot of how I’d watch my boyfriend and my roommate interact when we’d go out to bars together. Yep, you all thought I’d make it one episode without mentioning that dumpster fire of a relationship, but nope. Take a drink.

Lisa pulls Scheana aside from her job in the middle of THE BUSIEST DAY OF THE YEAR (a fact that annoys me but I should be used to it by now) to ask her how she’s doing. Scheana—you guessed it—brings up the “Rob making out with another girl” rumors. I’m just weeping to myself out of frustration at this point, for anyone at home who’s wondering.

Lisa: Even if this relationship doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world.

Scheana: Well it’s gonna work out because we’re meant to be together.

It must be exhausting being this delusional.

Scheana is definitely your friend who’s never been single and doesn’t know how to be. Scheana is Taylor Swift. Actually, that’s a pretty good think piece title. Coming soon to Betches. Someone comes up to Scheana and Rob and is like “What’s up?” and Scheana is like, “I got my smile back!!!” I’m so over this. I don’t ever wanna hear Scheana talk about her smile again, and if that means she never smiles, so be it.

Katie and Brittany come over to Brittany and Jax’s apartment. But first off, I am kind of weirded out by Kristen constantly saying Brittany is the best thing to happen to their group. Like, IDK, she just stans way too hard for these peripheral people, like Patrick. It’s just weird.

Brittany’s mom flew in to LA to surprise Brittany, and I just want to take the time to dissect Jax’s facial expression after learning that Sherry is in his apartment.

Okay, so I may not have captured it that well in this screenshot, but in the previews before the commercials, Jax was making this surprised face but if you looked closely (or are a psycho like me, hard to tell), he kind of looks a little bemused by the situation. Anyone? Or just me? 

You all can debate the intricacies of Jax’s facial expression in the comments. Or not. Whatever. But somebody answer this? WAS IT ABOUT THE PASTA? 

Read more: http://www.betches.com/vanderpump-rules-season-6-episode-7-recap

Greedy, Brittle, Opaque, and Shallow: The Downsides to Deep Learning

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google, has said that AI “is more profound than … electricity or fire.” Andrew Ng, who founded Google Brain and now invests in AI startups, wrote that “If a typical person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or in the near future.”

Their enthusiasm is pardonable. There have been remarkable advances in AI, after decades of frustration. Today we can tell a voice-activated personal assistant like Alexa to “Play the band Television,” or count on Facebook to tag our photographs; Google Translate is often almost as accurate as a human translator. Over the last half decade, billions of dollars in research funding and venture capital have flowed towards AI; it is the hottest course in computer science programs at MIT and Stanford. In Silicon Valley, newly minted AI specialists command half a million dollars in salary and stock.

But there are many things that people can do quickly that smart machines cannot. Natural language is beyond deep learning; new situations baffle artificial intelligences, like cows brought up short at a cattle grid. None of these shortcomings is likely to be solved soon. Once you’ve seen you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it: deep learning, now the dominant technique in artificial intelligence, will not lead to an AI that abstractly reasons and generalizes about the world. By itself, it is unlikely to automate ordinary human activities.

Jason Pontin (@jason_pontin) is an Ideas contributor for WIRED. He is a senior partner at Flagship Pioneering, a firm in Boston that creates, builds, and funds companies that solve problems in health, food, and sustainability. From 2004 to 2017 he was the editor in chief and publisher of MIT Technology Review. Before that he was the editor of Red Herring magazine, a business magazine that was popular during the dot-com boom.

To see why modern AI is good at a few things but bad at everything else, it helps to understand how deep learning works. Deep learning is math: a statistical method where computers learn to classify patterns using neural networks. Such networks possess inputs and outputs, a little like the neurons in our own brains; they are said to be “deep” when they possess multiple hidden layers that contain many nodes, with a blooming multitude of connections. Deep learning employs an algorithm called backpropagation, or backprop, that adjusts the mathematical weights between nodes, so that an input leads to the right output. In speech recognition, the phonemes c-a-t should spell the word “cat;” in image recognition, a photograph of a cat must not be labeled “a dog;” in translation, qui canem et faelem ut deos colunt should spit out “who worship dogs and cats as gods.” Deep learning is “supervised” when neural nets are trained to recognize phonemes, photographs, or the relation of Latin to English using millions or billions of prior, laboriously labeled examples.

Deep learning’s advances are the product of pattern recognition: neural networks memorize classes of things and more-or-less reliably know when they encounter them again. But almost all the interesting problems in cognition aren’t classification problems at all. “People naively believe that if you take deep learning and scale it 100 times more layers, and add 1000 times more data, a neural net will be able to do anything a human being can do,” says François Chollet, a researcher at Google. “But that’s just not true.”

Gary Marcus, a professor of cognitive psychology at NYU and briefly director of Uber’s AI lab, recently published a remarkable trilogy of essays, offering a critical appraisal of deep learning. Marcus believes that deep learning is not “a universal solvent, but one tool among many.” And without new approaches, Marcus worries that AI is rushing toward a wall, beyond which lie all the problems that pattern recognition cannot solve. His views are quietly shared with varying degrees of intensity by most leaders in the field, with the exceptions of Yann LeCun, the director of AI research at Facebook, who curtly dismissed the argument as “all wrong,” and Geoffrey Hinton, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and the grandfather of backpropagation, who sees “no evidence” of a looming obstacle.

According to skeptics like Marcus, deep learning is greedy, brittle, opaque, and shallow. The systems are greedy because they demand huge sets of training data. Brittle because when a neural net is given a “transfer test”—confronted with scenarios that differ from the examples used in training—it cannot contextualize the situation and frequently breaks. They are opaque because, unlike traditional programs with their formal, debuggable code, the parameters of neural networks can only be interpreted in terms of their weights within a mathematical geography. Consequently, they are black boxes, whose outputs cannot be explained, raising doubts about their reliability and biases. Finally, they are shallow because they are programmed with little innate knowledge and possess no common sense about the world or human psychology.

These limitations mean that a lot of automation will prove more elusive than AI hyperbolists imagine. “A self-driving car can drive millions of miles, but it will eventually encounter something new for which it has no experience,” explains Pedro Domingos, the author of The Master Algorithm and a professor of computer science at the University of Washington. “Or consider robot control: A robot can learn to pick up a bottle, but if it has to pick up a cup, it starts from scratch.” In January, Facebook abandoned M, a text-based virtual assistant that used humans to supplement and train a deep learning system, but never offered useful suggestions or employed language naturally.

What’s wrong? “It must be that we have a better learning algorithm in our heads than anything we’ve come up with for machines,” Domingos says. We need to invent better methods of machine learning, skeptics aver. The remedy for artificial intelligence, according to Marcus, is syncretism: combining deep learning with unsupervised learning techniques that don’t depend so much on labeled training data, as well as the old-fashioned description of the world with logical rules that dominated AI before the rise of deep learning. Marcus claims that our best model for intelligence is ourselves, and humans think in many different ways. His young children could learn general rules about language, and without many examples, but they were also born with innate capacities. “We are born knowing there are causal relationships in the world, that wholes can be made of parts, and that the world consists of places and objects that persist in space and time,” he says. “No machine ever learned any of that stuff using backprop.”

Other researchers have different ideas. “We’ve used the same basic paradigms [for machine learning] since the 1950s,” says Pedro Domingos, “and at the end of the day, we’re going to need some new ideas.” Chollet looks for inspiration in program synthesis, programs that automatically create other programs. Hinton’s current research explores an idea he calls “capsules,” which preserves backpropagation, the algorithm for deep learning, but addresses some of its limitations.

“There are a lot of core questions in AI that are completely unsolved,” says Chollet, “and even largely unasked.” We must answer these questions because there are tasks that a lot of humans don’t want to do, such as cleaning toilets and classifying pornography, or which intelligent machines would do better, such as discovering drugs to treat diseases. More: there are things that we can’t do at all, most of which we cannot yet imagine.


AI Anxieties

  • You can stop panicking about a superhuman AI. As Kevin Kelly writes, that’s a myth.

  • Another worry you can cross off your list? The fear that robots will take all of our jobs. It’s not nearly that simple.

  • But AI is becoming an ever-more integral factor in the future of work. Say hello to your new AI coworkers.

Photograph by WIRED/Getty Images

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/greedy-brittle-opaque-and-shallow-the-downsides-to-deep-learning/

Michael Fassbender Domestic Violence Allegations From ‘Afraid’ Ex-Girlfriend Resurface!

Care to explain, Michael Fassbender?

On Friday, the actor’s domestic abuse allegations have resurfaced after DailyMail.com published March 2010 Los Angeles court papers where ex-girlfriend Sunawin Andrews sought a protective order against the X-Men star.

According to the documents, the model details two incidents in 2009 where he allegedly got physical.

Related: Michael & Alicia Had Instant “Chemistry” When They First Met

In November 2009, the now-40-year-old allegedly drunkenly dragged Andrews with a car because her ex-boyfriend said hello to them at dinner.

She recalls:

“Michael was driving my car dangerously fast and screaming at me. I begged him to stop the car in fear of an accident or for my children who were home asleep… As we got closer to my house I put my car in stop. Got out walked around the car to pull key from ignition. Michael drove of[f] dragging me along from the car… He stopped after he realized I could not walk and got out of car. He picked me up and put me in car as my friends pulled up behind us. They stayed the night to help calm things.”

The mother says the incident left her with vaginal bleeding, a twisted left ankle, blown out left knee cap, bursted ovarian cyst, and a hospital bill totaling $24K.

In July 2009, Fassbender allegedly threw Andrews “over a chair” after she woke him up. The alleged incident — which she says left her with a broken nose — happened after the thespian received an award, presumably at a film and music festival in Ischia, Italy.

Andrews filed for a protective order against Fassbender on March 12, 2010, asking that he stay at least 100 yards away from her and her family.

She reveals in the petition:

“I am still recovering from my injuries and am afraid for my safety.”

Although the court granted Andrews a temporary protective order, she ultimately withdrew her request on April 6, 2010, one day before a scheduled hearing.

She currently lives in Los Angeles and works with an animal protection organization.

As we reported, Fassbender married actress Alicia Vikander in October 2017.

[Image via Sean Thorton/WENN.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-02-16-michael-fassbender-sunawin-andrews-alicia-vikander-domestic-abuse-claims

It’s not just in the genes: the foods that can help and harm your brain

Our diet has a huge effect on our brain and our mental wellbeing, even protecting against dementia. So, what should be on the menu?

It’s not just in the genes: the foods that can help and harm your brain

Our diet has a huge effect on our brain and our mental wellbeing, even protecting against dementia. So, what should be on the menu?

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/feb/12/its-not-just-in-the-genes-the-foods-that-can-help-and-harm-your-brain

The Shirk Report Volume 461

Welcome to the Shirk Report where you will find 20 funny images, 10 interesting articles and 5 entertaining videos from the last 7 days of sifting. Most images found on Reddit; articles from Facebook, Twitter, and email; videos come from everywhere. Any suggestions? Send a note to submit@twistedsifter.com

20 IMAGES

Friday!
Obligatory post every two years
The moguls event has gotten pretty crazy ever since Disney took it over
Now this is compelling
The Ancient prophecies are true!
Is it just me or are bookstores getting sassier?
Pipe down Jimmy Wales, Brad’s about to do stuff
When the first edible kicks in right after you finish the second one
Everyone has their own version of a pity clap
Same sweater then and now
Just no
The 2-pack would literally sell itself
But why are your fingers so small
WORST
Okay back to the Olympics
The faces of figure skating
This will make you sad
Y’all living in 2018, but this dude already in 3018
A must order on any flight (can I get a full can?)
Until next week

10 ARTICLES

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer
The surprising science of why ice is so slippery
Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook—and the World (thx for sharing CDub!)
Concussions Can Be Detected With New Blood Test Approved by F.D.A.
He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Opens on #MeToo Movement
What Color Is a Tennis Ball?
Why Is It So Hard for Democracy to Deal With Inequality?
A Rare Look Inside the Korean DMZ, the ‘Scariest Place on Earth’
America’s Failure to Protect Its Children from School Shootings Is a National Disgrace

5 VIDEOS + steak & sizzle

LET’S DO THIS TOKYO 2020!

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2018/02/the-shirk-report-volume-461/

Larry Nassar sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse

(CNN)Once a world-renowned sports physician treating America’s foremost Olympic women gymnasts, Larry Nassar now will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

“I’ve just signed your death warrant,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said in a Lansing, Michigan, courtroom. “I find that you don’t get it, that you’re a danger. That you remain a danger.”
Nassar had pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct in Ingham County in Michigan and admitted to using his trusted medical position to assault and molest girls under the guise of medical treatment.
    He offered a short statement in court, apologizing and saying that hearing seven days of victim impact statements had shaken him to his core.
    “There are no words that can describe the depth and breadth of how sorry I am for what has occurred,” Nassar said. “An acceptable apology to all of you is impossible to write and convey. I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days.”
    But before delivering her sentence, Aquilina read aloud a letter Nassar wrote to the court recently in which he defended his medical care, said he was “manipulated” into pleading guilty, and accused the women of lying.
    “I was a good doctor because my treatments worked, and those patients that are now speaking out are the same ones that praised and came back over and over,” Nassar wrote. “The media convinced them that everything I did was wrong and bad. They feel I broke their trust. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”
    The letter “tells me you still don’t get it,” Aquilina said, tossing the letter dismissively.
    “I wouldn’t send my dogs to you, sir,” she added.

    ‘Nearly infinite’

    People
    The sentence brings to an end a wrenching seven days of victim impact statements as part of Nassar’s plea deal.
    A total of 156 victims spoke, recounting similar stories of how they went to Nassar to receive treatment for sports injuries only to be sexually assaulted and told it was a form of treatment.

    Nassar gets up to 175 years in prison

    Nassar’s victims, in their own words

    Aly Raisman: ‘The tables have turned’

    ‘Little girls don’t stay little forever’

    WATCH: Nassar speaks

    From victims to an ‘army of survivors

    Who knew what, and when?

    Gymnastics families affected everywhere

    The judge these victims needed

    Opinion: How he got away with it

    “The breadth and ripple of this defendant’s abuse and destruction is nearly infinite,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis said in her remarks before the sentencing.
    Many of the women said that when they spoke up about the treatment, they were ignored or their concerns brushed aside by organizations in power, primarily USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the US Olympic Committee.
    The final speaker was Rachael Denhollander, the former gymnast who first made Nassar’s abuse public in a September 2016 story in the Indy Star. She meticulously laid out the ways that the systems failed her and other women and allowed this abuse to continue for so long.
    “Women and girls banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it,” she said.
    Nassar sat and listenedon the witness stand, sometimes hiding his head in his hands or wiping away tears with a tissue.
    Separately, he has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for federal child pornography charges. He also has pleaded guilty to three charges of criminal sexual conduct in Eaton County in Michigan and is due to be sentenced on those charges on January 31.
    Between the three sentences, Nassar, 54, will never get out of prison, Aquilina said.
    But the judge reminded everyone in the courtroom that the focus of the week-long sentencing hearing was the victims — or survivors, as many have called themselves. One by one, women and their families came forward to confront Nassar and explain how he used his respected position to molest young, injured girls.
    “I think what we’ve seen over the past week may have been a watershed moment in our country,” said attorney John Manly, who represents more than 100 women in civil lawsuits. “(This happened) because these women had the courage to get up and speak.”

    ‘We have our voices’

    The women — almost all of whom initially met Nassar for a sports-related injury — said that, because of the abuse, they struggled with anxiety, depression and instances of self-harm. Others said they no longer trust doctors or that they shrink from any physical touch.
    “Sexual abuse is so much more than a disturbing physical act,” Kyle Stephens, the first victim to speak, said last week. “It changes the trajectory of a victim’s life, and that is something that nobody has the right to do.”
    But the women also showed remarkable resolve and bravery, staring down Nassar in court and calling out the systems of power that protected him for more than two decades. The victims include some of the most famous Olympic gymnasts in American history, including gold medalist Aly Raisman, as well as athletes at Michigan State University and at USA Gymnastics.
    “We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long period of time, are now a force, and you are nothing,” Raisman said. “The tables have turned, Larry. We are here. We have our voices, and we are not going anywhere.”
    Court officials initially expected 88 victims to speak in court. But that number nearly doubled over the course of the sentencing hearing as more and more women came forward, inspired to speak out by what many called an “army of survivors.”
    “We were ultimately strong enough to take you down,” Kaylee Lorincz said on Wednesday. “Not one by one, but by an army of survivors. We are Jane Does no more.”
    Judge Aquilina allowed everyone who wished to speak a chance to be heard, and she offered personal responses to each woman in court. Legal experts said her intimate comments were unusual, but Nassar’s victims praised Aquilina for doing what so many others had failed to do: listen.

    Fallout only beginning

    Though the sentencing marks the end of Nassar’s time in the public eye, it has focused critical attention on USA Gymnastics, the US Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, the institutions that employed Nassar for about two decades. A number of women have accused the organizations of turning a blind eye to Nassar’s abuse and even pressuring outspoken victims into silence.
    “Michigan State University, the school I loved and trusted, had the audacity to tell me that I did not understand the difference between sexual assault and a medical procedure,” Amanda Thomashow said in court. “That master manipulator took advantage of his title, he abused me, and when I found the strength to talk about what had happened I was ignored and my voice was silenced.”
    All three organizations have denied wrongdoing and said they reported the sexual abuse allegations to authorities once they learned about them.
    Still, the fallout at those organizations has moved slowly and then all at once. Michigan State University asked the state attorney general to investigate its response to the abuse, and President Lou Anna Simon has faced calls for her resignation.
    In the past week, USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch, the training facility where the abuse happened, and three leaders of its board stepped down under pressure.
    The US Olympic Committee called on the rest of the USA Gymnastics board to step down and said it was considering decertifying USA Gymnastics as a national governing body, according to a statement from USOC CEO Scott Blackmun on Wednesday. The USOC statement also apologized for failing to stop Nassar’s abuse and for its inadequate response at his trial.
    “The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are,” Blackmun wrote. “We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man, and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams.
    “The Olympic family is among those that have failed you.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/24/us/larry-nassar-sentencing/index.html

    My life in sex: Its a thrice-weekly session with a dilator

    The cervical cancer survivor

    My life in sex: Its a thrice-weekly session with a dilator

    The cervical cancer survivor

    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/feb/16/my-life-in-sex-cervical-cancer-survivor-vaginal-dilator

    8 Scientific Conspiracies That Turned Out To Be True

    The past couple of years have seen the resurgence of the conspiracy theorist, but instead of the foil hat wearing, megaphone-wielding whack job of old, the conspiracy theorist of 2018 sits behind a keyboard and sets up GoFundMe pages raising money to launch homemade rockets.

    Vaccines cause autism. Man-made climate change isn’t real. Nibiru will crash into Earth, wiping out all life. And Stephen Hawking is an imposter. There are plenty to pick and choose from. Recent research has linked this sort of behavior to gullibility and the need to feel special, but conspiracy theorists will tell you this is simply another cover-up.

    There are some occasions, however, when real life is just as strange as fiction. From sinister research programs to health-related cover-ups, here are eight examples from the annals of history that sound so extraordinary they could have been cooked up by a conspiracy theorist.

    The CIA really did experiment with mind control and psychedelics

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) crops up in many a conspiracy theory, but its shady reputation is not entirely undeserved. Papers released in the seventies revealed the secret service really had been dabbling in mind control, psychological torture, radiation, and electric shock therapy in a series of studies into behavioral modification known as “Project MK-ULTRA”.

    More than 150 human experiments took place between 1953 and 1964, many of which involved administering drugs to US citizens without their knowledge and consent, and under no medical supervision. The purpose of this research was to develop techniques and substances to use against the Soviet Union and its allies – think truth serums and Bourne-like super agents.

    But things get more sinister. Then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all records relating to MK-ULTRA in 1973, which means there is little evidence of the intelligence services’ nefarious activities around today. We know the research was responsible for at least one hospitalization and two deaths but the true cost could be much higher.

    MK-ULTRA has inspired several Hollywood blockbusters. overturefilms/Youtube

    Politicians and industry leaders purposefully misled the public over the health risks associated with smoking

    Smoking increases your risk of stroke, emphysema, infertility, and a whole host of cancers. But back in the day, Big Tobacco tried all it could to persuade consumers that cigarettes weren’t bad for you. It didn’t stop there. They even tried to convince the public that smoking was healthy. Just take a look at some of the dangerous, not to mention highly sexist, vintage ads from the sixties and earlier.

    Tobacco companies were major lobbyists and generous donors to political campaigns. Essentially, they were able to buy favor with politicians and others in positions of power, meanwhile refuting the science behind the health risks, claiming it was uncertain. It was not until the nineties – at which point, the evidence against smoking was irrefutable – that corporations began to admit there were health risks associated with cigarette smoking.

    And in 2006, after a seven-year-long lawsuit, Judge Gladys E. Kessler found the tobacco companies guilty of conspiracy, having “suppressed research…destroyed documents…manipulated the use of nicotine so as to increase and perpetuate addiction”.

    Luckies get the physician’s stamp of approval, apparently. clotho98/Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

    …and sugar

    But it wasn’t just the tobacco companies that were guilty of this kind of malevolent activity. The sugar industry also spent years hiding data and bribing scientists to keep inconvenient research under wraps, all the while advertising Lucky Charms and Kool-Aid on children’s TV.

    In 2016, a paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed the sugar industry had funded research in the sixties underplaying the risks associated with eating the white stuff, instead pointing the finger of blame at fat. According to the article authors, sugar bigwigs have been attempting to control debate around the dangers and merits of sugar and fat consumption for the past five decades.

    For example, a 2011 study made the shocking (and entirely unscientific) claim that children who eat candy weigh less than those that do not. Dig a little deeper and it turns out that the research was funded by the National Confectioner’s Association, a group that represents companies like Hershey and Skittles. Then, in 2015, it was revealed that soda giant Coca-Cola had funded studies linking weight loss to exercise to undermine the important role poor diet plays in obesity.  

    Companies like Coca-Cola have been covering up the health risks associated with sugar for the past 50 years. Physics_joe/Shutterstock

    The US government really did investigate UFOs

    So much for Area 51 being a fiction conceived by conspiracy theorist loons. Last year, the Pentagon confirmed that the US government had been investigating “anomalous aerospace threats”, or what you and I might refer to as UFOs.

    Between 2008 and 2011, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program received close to $22 million, which, admittedly, isn’t exactly a large slice of the Defense Department’s annual budget of $600 billion. Ultimately, the experiment came to nothing and the program was closed down – at least, that’s what official sources are saying.

    Area 51 might not be quite so crazy after all – UFO sighting 1937. Malcolm Dee/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    …and employed Nazi scientists after WW2

    For those who haven’t seen Doctor Strangelove, the film’s titular character is a former Nazi with a severe case of alien hand syndrome working as a scientific advisor to the US president, who he intermittently referred to as “Mein Fuhrer”.

    The premise seems farfetched but rumor has it he was modeled on Wernher von Braun, who was just one of the 1,600 or so Nazi scientists sent to work in the US following German defeat in World War II. The program, called Operation Paperclip, was exposed in media outlets like the New York Times in 1946.

    Some of these scientists were involved in Project MK-ULTRA. Von Braun, however, was put to work as director of the Development Operations Division of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency. He was heavily involved in the moon landing and developed the Jupiter-C rocket used to launch America’s first satellite. Before that, he had been involved in the V-2 rocket program, where he used prisoners from the concentration camps to assist him. Others in the program had similarly dodgy pasts, with some having even been tried at Nuremberg.

    Former Nazi, Wernher von Braun. NASA/Wikimedia Commons

    Water can affect the sex of frogs  sort of

    Alex Jones, the far-right radio host and conspiracy theorist of Infowars fame, claimed chemicals in the water are turning frogs gay. While there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence to back up his “theory” that water is affecting frogs’ sexuality, some studies seem to suggest man-made chemicals do have an effect on a frog’s sex.

    A 2010 paper from the University of California, Berkeley, found that as many as one in 10 male frogs exposed to atrazine, a common pesticide, experience a hormonal imbalance that effectively turns them female. They produce estrogen, mate with males, and even lay eggs. More recently, studies have shown that chemicals found in suburban ponds and road salts can also affect a frog’s sex.

    While the role of man-made chemicals in the environment may be problematic from a reproductive point of view, there is nothing unnatural about animals switching sex. Shrimps, clownfish, coral, and frogs all have the ability to do so. There is also no evidence to suggest that chemicals in the water can affect human sexuality or imply the US government is trying to make children gay with juice boxes, as Jones claims.

    Painted reed frog chilling on a leaf. feathercollector/Shutterstock

    The Public Health Service watched as black men died of syphilis unnecessarily, in the name of science

    Syphilis is a nasty disease that, if not treated, can result in blindness, paralysis, and/or death, and until the discovery of penicillin, there was no cure. Still, that does not excuse the unethical treatment of poor, black men who were recruited to take part in a program to record the natural progress of the disease.

    The “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” began operation in 1932, when 600 men from Macon County, a deprived region of Alabama, were drafted. Of those, 399 had syphilis. The men were misled and told they would receive treatment for “bad blood”, which they did not recieve.

    What’s worse, the researchers continued the experiment after penicillin became the accepted treatment for syphilis in 1945. The experiment, initially projected to last six months, carried on for 40 years. For some reason, doctors decided it was in medicine’s best interest to watch the men die a slow and painful death unnecessarily. The research came to an end in 1972, after The New York Times published a story on the study. During the trial, 28 men died of syphilis, 100 more from related causes, and 40 spouses contracted the disease.

    In the forties, similar experiments took place in Guatemala, where hundreds of men and women were purposefully infected with syphilis.

    Doctor injecting a subject with what is presumably a placebo. US government/Wikimedia Commons

    The US government did poison alcohol supplies, on purpose

    Politicians introduced Prohibition in 1920 to curb the nation’s drinking habit, but speakeasies multiplied and bootlegging (the illegal production and distribution of liquor) was widespread. Apparently, putting something in law is not enough to actually change people’s behavior, so the US government came up with a drastic, far more sinister solution: poison the illegal liquor supply.

    To do this, the government started adding toxins like benzene and mercury to alcohol in the mid-1920s. The most lethal, however, was methanol, otherwise known as wood alcohol, a substance normally found in industrial products like fuel and formaldehyde. Drinking this stuff can cause paralysis, blindness, and even death. In total, it is estimated around 10,000 people died as a result of the government’s moral crusade.

    Ultimately, even poisoning the liquor supply wasn’t enough to dampen the country’s taste for alcohol and the practice died down. Prohibition ended in 1933, but the government adopted a similar tactic in the fight against marijuana use in the 1970s.

    content-1518192795-5-prohibition-disposa
    New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach, watches as an officer disposes of (probably poisonous) alcohol during Prohibition. Source unknown/Wikimedia Commons

     

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/editors-blog/8-scientific-conspiracies-that-turned-out-to-be-true/

    Volkswagen Apologizes for Testing of Diesel Fumes on Monkeys

    The controversy over Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions cheating took another twist when the carmaker apologized for a test that exposed monkeys to engine fumes to study effects of the exhaust.

    The company said the study, conducted by a research and lobby group set up by VW, Daimler AG, BMW AG and Robert Bosch GmbH, was a mistake. The New York Times reported earlier about a 2014 trial in a U.S. laboratory in which 10 monkeys inhaled diesel emissions from a VW Beetle.

    “We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals,” Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW said in a statement. “We’re convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong. It would have been better to do without such a study in the first place.”

    The revelations show the rocky road for Volkswagen as it emerges from its biggest crisis after the 2015 bombshell that the company installed emissions-cheating software in some 11 million diesel vehicles to dupe official tests. They also do little to help the poor public perception of the technology under scrutiny for high pollution levels in many European cities. In an additional twist, the Beetle model used in the test was among the vehicles that were rigged to conform to test limits, The New York Times reported.

    Daimler said separately it would start an investigation into the study ordered by the European Scientific Study Group for the Environment, Health and Transport Sector. BMW too distanced itself from the trial, saying it had taken no part in its design and methods. Bosch said it left the group in 2013. The study group, financed equally by the three carmakers, ceased activities last year and the project wasn’t completed, VW said.

    “We believe the animal tests in this study were unnecessary and repulsive,” Daimler said in a statement. “We explicitly distance ourselves from the study.”

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-28/volkswagen-apologizes-for-testing-of-diesel-fumes-on-monkeys