Bernie Sanders Economic Inequality Town Hall Draws 1.7 Million Live Viewers

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Bernie Sanders’ televised town hall on economic inequality drew about 1.7 million live viewers during an online broadcast Monday night.

The panel-discussion-style event, called “Inequality in America: The Rise of Oligarchy and Collapse of the Middle Class,” exceeded the viewership of Sanders’ first live town hall on single-payer health care in January.

The broadcast provided the Vermont independent with an opportunity to expand his new alternative media revue beyond “Medicare for all” to the broader issue of economic inequality, which he maintains that commercial media outlets frequently ignore.

“What I would say to our friends in the corporate media: Start paying attention to the reality of how many people in our country are struggling economically every single day ― and talk about it,” Sanders declared at one point during the discussion.

Not content to wait for the cable television channels and newspapers to take him up on his advice, Sanders partnered with The Guardian, The Young Turks, NowThis and Act.tv to do just that for about an hour and a half on Monday night.

Three co-hosts aided Sanders in his efforts: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), New School economist Darrick Hamilton and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Together they interviewed three guests with specialized knowledge of the economic and political structures suppressing economic mobility and funneling wealth upward. Catherine Coleman Flowers, a founder of the anti-poverty Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corp., spoke about the destitute poverty of the rural black community in Lowndes County, Alabama, where exposure to untreated sewage prompted a rare outbreak of hookworm.

Cindy Estrada, a vice president of the United Auto Workers, addressed the role of organized labor in raising living standards ― and how its decline has lowered them. And Gordon Lafer, a political scientist from the University of Oregon, explained how corporate interests neutralized public opposition through campaign donations and massive lobbying efforts.

An audience of about 450 people attended the town hall in person in the U.S. Capitol auditorium. An additional 100 people viewed the event on monitors in an overflow room.

The rest of what Sanders’ staff estimates were 1.7 million live viewers saw the event online. (HuffPost’s back-of-the-envelope tally from the social media pages of Sanders, Warren and the various digital partners produced a similar figure.)

Billed as a seminar on the causes of, and solutions to, rising income and wealth inequality, the town hall often doubled as a progressive pep rally for social democratic reforms.

During Estrada’s appearance, for example, Warren’s homage to labor unions elicited thunderous applause. “Unions built America’s middle class. It’ll take unions to rebuild America’s middle class,” she said.

For his part, Moore focused on the failure of the Democratic Party, which fashions itself as the party of working people, to stand true to its mission. This line of inquiry took Moore first into a discussion of the ostensibly Democratic leanings of the three wealthiest men in the country ― Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos ― and later into a riff on the Democrats who voted to authorize the Iraq War exactly 15 years earlier.

Moore appeared to be saying that letting Democrats off the hook had contributed to the collapse of the middle class.

“It’s so important that we hold the people who say they’re for the people ― hold their feet to the fire! And if they’re not going to do the job they say they’re going to do, let’s get somebody else,” he concluded to loud ovation.

The origins of American inequality that Sanders and his allies sketched on Monday are by now familiar to left-leaning activists immersed in the works of Robert Reich and Jacob Hacker, among other progressive thinkers.

In this history, former President Ronald Reagan ushered in a new era of corporate domination with his symbolic decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in August 1981. The move was the opening salvo in a prolonged war against organized labor that steadily diminished unions’ ranks and reduced their clout, according to numerous liberal scholars.

A host of tax breaks, deregulatory measures, corporate-skewed trade agreements and safety net reductions backed by members of both parties in subsequent decades served to heighten the inequality generated in the 1980s. The result, Sanders said in his introductory remarks, is a country where “the top 10th of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent.

“In recent years, we have seen incredible growth in the number of billionaires, while 40 million Americans continue to live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth,” he continued.

A prominent feature of the evening’s analysis that Sanders’ critics have sometimes accused him of downplaying was an explicit breakdown of the racial roots of American poverty.

Flowers, who invited the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty to witness the squalid conditions in Lowndes County, argued that state authorities have failed to address the issue of inadequate sewage systems because of entrenched racist views.

Some of those same types of attitudes that existed prior to the 1960s, the structural racism that was reinforced by racial terror, is still in existence today,” Flowers said.

Hamilton suggested that the universal programs Sanders favors would not erase the racial inequities that follow black Americans at every level of socioeconomic and educational attainment. He noted that a black household headed by a college graduate has, on average, less wealth than a white household headed by a high school dropout.

“So when Sen. Sanders proposes that we should have tuition-free public education ― absolutely, but as an end unto itself. We exaggerate the returns from education, particularly to marginalized groups,” Hamilton said.

Sanders, Warren and Moore all endorsed relatively well-known left-leaning solutions to inequality, including a $15 minimum wage, stronger unions, free college education and paid family leave policies.

Perhaps in keeping with his intersectional focus, Hamilton embraced more radical measures. His preferred solutions included the creation of trust funds for every American at birth, a federal job guarantee, the replacement of private payday lenders with postal banking and an end to academic tracking in grade school, which he argued often replicates racial segregation, even within relatively integrated schools.

“To really get beyond our race problem, when we’re ready as a nation to come together, we need to come to grips with reparations,” Hamilton concluded, prompting cheers from the crowd.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/bernie-sanders-economic-inequality-town-hall-million-viewers_us_5ab08fb6e4b0e862383ab6b4

How The Milk Of The Humble Platypus Could Help Us Beat Antibiotic-Resistant Superbugs

The first scientists to examine a platypus in 1799 dismissed it as a fake made of different animals sewn together. Centuries later, this bizarre Aussie critter continues to confound us. Now, it appears its milk could be our savior in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Back in 2010, scientists realized that platypus moms produce very special milk. They found that it has unique bacteria-fighting properties that could be used to kill superbugs. Unlike most other mammals, including us, these weird creatures don’t have teats, so their milk is expressed onto their stomachs where their babies lap it up. This exposes it to the bacteria-filled world so bug-fighting properties are pretty useful.

The duck-billed platypus is certainly an oddity in nature. Although it’s a mammal, it doesn’t really follow mammalian rules. It has the bill of a duck, it lays eggs, and it has venomous spurs poking out of its feet. It belongs to an Australian group of animals called monotremes, which also includes the prickly but adorable pointy-nosed echidnas, otherwise known as spiny anteaters. Monotremes certainly wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Pokémon.  

But as well as being bizarre and adorable in equal measures, the platypus could help us treat infections at a time when overprescribing antibiotics is a serious threat to humanity.

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, which include many ailments from a chest infection to life-threatening meningitis. They’re our best defense against bacterial diseases, but recently we’ve encountered a problem. Antibiotics are used so much that ever-evolving bacteria are mutating to be resistant to them, forming nasty superbugs like MRSA. If a serious antibiotic-resistant disease broke out and spread across the world, we’d be in pretty big trouble.

Enter the duck-billed platypus.

To investigate exactly how a platypus’ milk is so potent, a team of researchers from CSIRO took a closer look. They managed to isolate the monotreme lactation protein and analyze its structure, which, like the platypus itself, is totally unique.

“Platypus are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry,” lead author Dr Janet Newman said in a statement.

“We’ve characterised a new protein that has unique antibacterial properties with the potential to save lives.”

The team’s findings are published in the journal Structural Biology Communications. They replicated the protein in the lab so they could get a good look at it and discovered a strange never-before-seen 3D fold. This is important because the shape of a protein controls its function.

Adding to this story’s strangeness, the protein has a ringlet-style structure, so obviously, the researchers decided to call it Shirley Temple, after the child-star’s golden locks.

Excitingly, discovering the unique structure of the “Shirley Temple” protein will help scientists in their quest to find alternatives to antibiotics. Platypuses, we salute you.  

Saving Lives with Platypus Milk from CSIRO on Vimeo

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/how-the-milk-of-the-humble-platypus-could-help-us-beat-antibioticresistant-superbugs-/

Under Fire and Losing Trust, Facebook Plays the Victim

On Tuesday morning, Facebook employees were quiet even for Facebook employees, buried in the news on their phones as they shuffled to a meeting in one of the largest cafeterias at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Mark Zuckerberg, their chief executive officer, had always told them Facebook Inc.’s growth was good for the world. Sheryl Sandberg, their chief operating officer, had preached the importance of openness. Neither appeared in the cafeteria on Tuesday. Instead, the company sent a lawyer.

The context: Reports in the  and thethe previous weekend that Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that advised President Trump’s electoral campaign on digital advertising, had effectively stolen personal information from at least 50 million Americans. The data had come from Facebook, which had allowed an outside developer to take it before that developer shared it with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook tried to get ahead of the story, announcing in a blog post that it was suspending the right-leaning consultancy and that it no longer allowed this kind of data sharing. Its users—a cohort that includes 2 billion or so people—weren’t ready to forgive. The phrase #DeleteFacebook flooded social media. (Among the outraged was WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, who in 2014 sold Facebook his messaging app for $19 billion.) Regulators in the U.S. and Europe announced they were opening inquiries. The company’s stock fell almost 9 percent from March 19-20, erasing about $50 billion of value.

QuicktakeFacebook and Cambridge Analytica

In most moments of crisis for the company, Zuckerberg or Sandberg have typically played damage-controller-in-chief. This time, the employees got all of 30 minutes with Paul Grewal, the deputy general counsel. the news reports were true—a blame-deflecting phrase that struck some as odd—Grewal told them, Facebook had been lied to. Cambridge Analytica should have deleted the outside developer’s data, but it didn’t. Reporters were calling this a breach, but it wasn’t, because users freely signed away their own data and that of their friends. The rules were clear, and Facebook followed them.

One employee asked the same question twice: Even if Facebook played by its own rules, and the developer followed policies at the time, did the company ever consider the ethics of what it was doing with user data? Grewal didn’t answer directly.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment for this story, referring to a January post by Zuckerberg stating the CEO’s aim to get the company on a “better trajectory.” On Wednesday afternoon, Zuckerberg published a post promising to audit and restrict developer access to user data. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you,” he wrote. “I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again.”

Read more: Silicon Valley Has Failed to Protect Our Data. Here’s How to Fix It

Of course, Facebook has weathered complaints about violating user privacy since its earliest days without radically altering its practices. The first revolt came in 2006, when users protested that the service’s news feed was making public information that the users had intended to keep private. The news feed is now the company’s core service. In 2009, Facebook began making users’ posts, which had previously been private, public by default. That incident triggered anger, confusion, an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and, ultimately, a consent decree. In 2014, the company disclosed that it had tried to manipulate users’ emotions as part of an internal psychology experiment.

As bad as each of these may have seemed, Facebook users have generally been unfazed. They’ve used the service in ever-greater numbers for greater amounts of time, in effect trading privacy for product. They were willing to give more and more data to Facebook in exchange for the ability to connect with old high school friends, see pictures of their grandkids, read only the news that they agree with. The concept was dubbed Zuckerberg’s Law in 2008, when the CEO argued at a conference that each year people would share twice as much information about themselves as they had the year before. Notions of privacy were eroding, Zuckerberg said in 2010. “That social norm,” he added, “is just something that has evolved over time.”

For a while, the only thing Facebook needed to do to keep growing was to remove barriers to downloading and using the product. By 2014, it had reached almost half the world’s internet-connected population, and Zuckerberg realized the only way to expand further was to add people to the internet. While Facebook invested in internet subsidy programs in developing countries, it also went on an acquisition binge, buying up popular social software makers such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

These moves led to annual revenue growth of about 50 percent, with most of the increase coming from mobile ads, and converted the company’s Wall Street doubters. Last year, even as Facebook was forced to acknowledge that it had played a role in the Russian disinformation campaign during the election of Trump, investors pushed its stock price up 53 percent.

But the big blue app, as employees call Facebook’s namesake service, hasn’t changed much in years. The company has tweaked its algorithm, at times favoring or punishing clickbait-style news and viral videos, but most people use the service the same way they did two or three years ago. And some people are simply over it. In North America, Facebook’s daily user counts fell for the first time in the fourth quarter, and time spent on the site declined by 50 million hours a day. Facebook claimed that this was by design: Zuckerberg was focusing on helping users achieve “time well-spent,” with the news feed de-emphasizing viral flotsam.

The company positioned its new algorithmic initiative as a reaction to a study co-authored by one of its employees, arguing that while Facebook could be bad for users' mental health if they used it passively, more active use was actually good for you. The study could be viewed as a rare show of corporate transparency or a novel way to goose engagement.

Some of the moves, however, look even more desperate. Now, when people stop going on Facebook as often as usual, the company sends them frequent emails and text messages to encourage them to re-engage. It’s also getting more aggressive about suggesting what users should post.  According to some employees, the focus on time well-spent just means the company will point to metrics such as comments and personal updates as signs of growth, rather than genuinely improving the user experience.

In the long run, Facebook wants to make its product even more immersive and personal than it is now. It wants people to buy video chatting and personal assistant devices for their homes, and plans to announce those products this spring, say people familiar with the matter. It wants users to dive into Facebook-developed virtual worlds. It wants them to use Facebook Messenger to communicate with businesses, and to store their credit-card data on the app so they can use it to make payments to friends.

Employees have begun to worry that the company won’t be able to achieve its biggest goals if users decide that Facebook isn’t trustworthy enough to hold their data. At the meeting on Tuesday, the mood was especially grim. One employee told a reporter that the only time he’d felt as uncomfortable at work, or as responsible for the world’s problems, was the day Donald Trump won the presidency.

BOTTOM LINE – As its share price tanks and regulators circle, Facebook is struggling to answer basic questions about its next moves, even from its own employees.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-21/under-fire-and-losing-trust-facebook-plays-the-victim

WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water

Researchers find levels of plastic fibres in popular bottled water brands could be twice as high as those found in tap water

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water after a new analysis of some of the worlds most popular bottled water brands found that more than 90% contained tiny pieces of plastic. A previous study also found high levels of microplastics in tap water.

In the new study, analysis of 259 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries across 11 different brands found an average of 325 plastic particles for every litre of water being sold.

In one bottle of Nestl Pure Life, concentrations were as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water. Of the 259 bottles tested, only 17 were free of plastics, according to the study.

Scientists based at the State University of New York in Fredonia were commissioned by journalism project Orb Media to analyse the bottled water.

The scientists wrote they had found roughly twice as many plastic particles within bottled water compared with their previous study of tap water, reported by the Guardian.

A
A colourful microfibre of plastic found in bottled water. Photograph: Abigail Barrows

According to the new study, the most common type of plastic fragment found was polypropylene the same type of plastic used to make bottle caps. The bottles analysed were bought in the US, China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Lebanon, Kenya and Thailand.

Scientists used Nile red dye to fluoresce particles in the water the dye tends to stick to the surface of plastics but not most natural materials.

The study has not been published in a journal and has not been through scientific peer review. Dr Andrew Mayes, a University of East Anglia scientist who developed the Nile red technique, told Orb Media he was satisfied that it has been applied carefully and appropriately, in a way that I would have done it in my lab.

The brands Orb Media said it had tested were: Aqua (Danone), Aquafina (PepsiCo), Bisleri (Bisleri International), Dasani (Coca-Cola), Epura (PepsiCo), Evian (Danone), Gerolsteiner (Gerolsteiner Brunnen), Minalba (Grupo Edson Queiroz), Nestle Pure Life (Nestle), San Pellegrino (Nestle) and Wahaha (Hangzhou Wahaha Group).

A World Health Organisation spokesman told the Guardian that although there was not yet any evidence on impacts on human health, it was aware it was an emerging area of concern. The spokesman said the WHO would review the very scarce available evidence with the objective of identifying evidence gaps, and establishing a research agenda to inform a more thorough risk assessment.

A second unrelated analysis, also just released, was commissioned by campaign group Story of Stuff and examined 19 consumer bottled water brands in the US.It also found plastic microfibres were widespread.

The brand Boxed Water contained an average of 58.6 plastic fibres per litre. Ozarka and Ice Mountain, both owned by Nestle, had concentrations at 15 and 11 pieces per litre, respectively. Fiji Water had 12 plastic fibres per litre.

Abigail Barrows, who carried out the research for Story of Stuff in her laboratory in Maine, said there were several possible routes for the plastics to be entering the bottles.

Plastic microfibres are easily airborne. Clearly thats occurring not just outside but inside factories. It could come in from fans or the clothing being worn, she said.

Stiv Wilson, campaign coordinator at Story of Stuff, said finding plastic contamination in bottled water was problematic because people are paying a premium for these products.

Jacqueline Savitz, of campaign group Oceana, said: We know plastics are building up in marine animals and this means we too are being exposed, some of us every day. Between the microplastics in water, the toxic chemicals in plastics and the end-of-life exposure to marine animals, its a triple whammy.

Nestle criticised the methodology of the Orb Media study, claiming in a statement to CBC that the technique using Nile red dye could generate false positives.

Coca-Cola told the BBC it had strict filtration methods, but acknowledged the ubiquity of plastics in the environment meant plastic fibres may be found at minute levels even in highly treated products.

A Gerolsteiner spokesperson said the company, too, could not rule out plastics getting into bottled water from airborne sources or from packing processes. The spokesperson said concentrations of plastics in water from their own analyses were lower than those allowed in pharmaceutical products.

Danone claimed the Orb Media study used a methodology that was unclear. The American Beverage Association said it stood by the safety of its bottled water, adding that the science around microplastics was only just emerging.

The Guardian contacted Nestle and Boxed Water for comment on the Story of Stuff study, but had not received a response at the time of publication.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/microplastics-found-in-more-than-90-of-bottled-water-study-says

Rob Kardashian Is Ready To Bounce Back For Real ‘More Active’ Now Following Public Weight Struggle!

Move over Khloé because Rob Kardashian is working on his Revenge Body!

As we reported, the KUWTK brother turned 31 on Saturday and posted a photo of him and daughter Dream Kardashian where the father of one looks noticeably slimmer (above).

According to a People source, the Arthur George sock designer — who has publicly battled weight gain, depression, and type 2 diabetes — “needs to get his eating in check” though he has been “more active” lately.

Luckily, the USC graduate has lots of support from his loved ones. The insider continued:

“Everyone hopes this time he can turn himself around… He’s been doing better and has been spending a lot more time around his family, which is good for him.”

Despite his nasty split from ex Blac Chyna, who wished him happy birthday over the weekend, Rob is doing everything in his power to give him and his daughter a better life.

“There is a lot of sympathy for Rob — he fell hard for Chyna… He’s trying to focus on Dream and being a good dad to her. Dream is the sweetest little girl and loves Rob.”

You got this, dude!

[Image via Rob Kardashian/Twitter.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-03-19-rob-kardashian-blac-chyna-dream-kardashian-active-lifestyle

Condom snorting? Eating Tide Pods? Dont believe the viral hype around teen trends.

As the parent of two teens, a recent headline caught my eye: “The condom snorting challenge is every parents worst nightmare.”

Oh, good gracious, I thought. What fresh nonsense are teens into now?

I perused the article (just one of many), which details a “viral craze” on social media in which teens share videos of themselves sucking an unwrapped condom up through their nose and pulling it out of their mouth.

Yes, it’s absurd. Yes, it’s dangerous.

But no, it’s not the big new thing teens are doing across the country.

According to Snopes, most of the videos being shown in media reports on the “craze” are from years ago, when snorting condoms was kind of a fad — one that never really became widespread and petered out pretty quickly.

This video from ThinkTank discussed the challenge in 2013:

So apparently, my “worst nightmare” as a parent was sort of a thing for a little while a bunch of years ago and has now somehow gained new life through the media. Mmkay.

News outlets and social media like to run look at this ridiculous teen craze” stories, but such stories don’t accurately represent the majority of teenagers.

Earlier this year, the Tide Pod Challenge was all over the news. The story was that teens were taking to social media with videos of themselves holding a Tide detergent pod in their mouths. Cue the gagging, puking, poisoning — and in some cases — hospitalization. Yay, evolution!

Stories of the challenge circulated widely, prompting Tide to release a plea not to eat their detergent pods and Youtube and Facebook to ban videos of people engaging in the challenge.

The stories also resulted in The People of the Internet making Tide Pod jokes on every story about young people and dismissing anything teens said about anything.

Sigh.

Yes, some teens really were eating Tide Pods. Yes, it’s reckless and dangerous.

But no, the vast majority of teens weren’t — and aren’t — that foolish.

When you do the math, it’s clear that these so-called fads are usually just a small number of kids amplified on the internet.

According to the Association for Poison Control, there were 86 incidents of intentional ingestion of laundry detergent pods by teens in the first three weeks of 2018. That’s a sharp increase from the year before, but still hardly an epidemic.

Let’s do some quick math.

There are more than 42 million adolescents in the United States. If 86 out of 42 million purposely “ate” a Tide pod, that means approximately 0.0002% of American adolescents did it. Even if 10 times that many actually tried it and didn’t get poisoned enough to make the official list, that would still only be 0.002% — that’s two thousandths of a percent.

While ingesting laundry detergent is clearly a bad idea, this does not appear to me to be a universal habit among teens — or even a moderately common one.

The contrast in the way teens are portrayed in the news in 2018 is striking.

The teens who’ve experienced gun violence and are channeling their energies into civic action have gotten a lot of press. And they should. What they’re doing is impressive, even if you disagree with their message. They’ve organized thousands, galvanized a movement, and effected real legislative change.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Those teens do not appear to be eating Tide pods and snorting condoms through their noses in their free time.

And those young people bear a much closer resemblance to most of the teenagers I know and have known than the handful of teens I’ve seen in these “viral” challenge videos.

I think teens are awesome. The ones I know are smart and principled. They know how to have fun and be silly without being dangerous or foolish. They care deeply about societal issues and are motivated to make the world a better place.

The teens in my life aren’t perfect, but they’re also not ingesting soap or pulling contraceptives through their nasal cavities.

Viral crazes make great headlines, but they don’t represent teens overall. And it’s insulting to young people to imply that they do.

My two teens roll their eyes every time one of these “fads” makes the headlines. They don’t know anyone who has done these kinds of challenges.

That’s not to say that no one does them — obviously, someone does or there wouldn’t be a story there. But some people do reckless things all the time in the adult world, too. That doesn’t mean we can ascribe that behavior to most (or even many) adults.

Everyone needs to just calm down a bit. The kids are all right.

In fact, teens are doing pretty great. According to the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, today’s teens smoke less, drink less, get pregnant less (probably because they’re having less sex), get into fights less, and generally make less trouble than my generation did. Yes, they have issues that we didn’t have due to social media, and they sometimes make questionable choices, like all teens have forever, but they’re not a bunch of sheep.

My teens are exceptional in my eyes, but I don’t believe they’re the exception. Let’s keep celebrating young people who are doing amazing things — and let’s stop treating this generation like they don’t know better than to eat laundry soap or shove rubber up their noses.

Because that’s simply not the case for the vast majority of them.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/condom-snorting-eating-tide-pods-don-t-believe-the-viral-hype-around-teen-trends

Parkland suspect Nikolas Cruz showered with fan mail, donations: report

The bloody Valentine’s Day massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school last month has led some observers to fall in love — with the suspect.

Lovestruck groupies from around the country are showering gunman Nikolas Cruz with fan mail, including sexually provocative photos and donations, according to a report.

One 18-year-old from Texas purportedly professed her love to Cruz in a March 15 letter adorned with smiley faces and hand-drawn hearts, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel reported.

“When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you,” the letter said. “Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome.”

The missive flatly concludes: “I’m really skinny and have 34C sized breasts.” 

Another Texas woman reportedly sent a bizzare handwritten love note less than a week after Cruz gunned down 17 people Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Nikolas and Zachary Cruz reportedly discussed their newfound popularity in a jail visit.  (Broward County Sheriff)

“I reserve the right to care about you, Nikolas!” read the unsolicited declaration.

PROSECUTORS: NIKOLAS CRUZ’S BROTHER BRAGGED ABOUT THEIR POPULARITY

A Chicago woman reportedly sent Cruz numerous suggestive photos, including one in which she slurps a Popsicle while wearing a bikini, and another in which she shows off her backside for the camera.

Cruz, who jail officials say has received nearly $800 in donations to his prison commissary account since the shooting, has also caught the eye of some members of his own sex.

A New Yorker with a bushy moustache sent Cruz a card featuring a cat and a photo of himself sitting in a white 1992 Nissan convertible, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

“I’m really skinny and have 34C sized breasts.”

– Letter sent to Nikolas Cruz by admirer

At least for now, though, the mass murderer’s suitors are pining at the wind. Jail officials, who screen all letters to inmates, said Cruz has not seen the letters, and remains on suicide watch. 

As a matter of policy, authorities seize letters that contain obscene material, privileged communications, or threats to public safety.

“We read a few religious ones to him that extended wishes for his soul and to come to God,” Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein told the Sun-Sentinel, “but we have not and will not read him the fan letters or share the photos of scantily-clad teenage girls.”

Finkelstein added that he’s “never seen this many letters to a defendant” in his 40 years as a public defender.

FLASHBACK: ROLLING STONE COVER FEATURES ‘BAD BOY’ BOSTON BOMBER

But dozens of admirers have also flooded social media, where some have claimed that they’ve gotten through to Cruz.

“I want you all to know that Nikolas knows about us and he had the biggest smile on his face when he was told that we all support him,” one Facebook user wrote on a pro-Cruz group.

When Zachary Cruz, Nikolas’ younger brother, visited Nikolas in jail, the two discussed their popularity, according to prosecutors.

Zachary’s attorneys are expected to argue in court Thursday that his $500,000 bail on a trespassing charge is excessive. The 18-year-old was arrested Mar. 19 after authorities found him skateboarding at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The unseemly interest in Cruz may stem from women with poor parental relationships, or a strong desire to save an apparently lonely and vulnerable figure, mental health experts told the paper.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/29/parkland-suspect-nikolas-cruz-showered-with-fan-mail-donations-report.html

What Are Screens Doing to Our Eyesand Our Ability to See?

The eyes are unwell. Their childhood suppleness is lost. The lenses, as we log hours on this earth, thicken, stiffen, even calcify. The eyes are no longer windows on souls. They’re closer to teeth.

To see if your own eyes are hardening, look no further than your phone, which should require no exertion; you’re probably already there. Keep peering at your screen, reading and staring, snubbing life’s third dimension and natural hues. The first sign of the eyes’ becoming teeth is the squinting at phones. Next comes the reflexive extending of the arm, the impulse to resize letters into the preschool range. And at last the buying of drugstore readers.

Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She is the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art. She is also a cohost of Trumpcast, an op-ed columnist at the Los Angeles Times, and a frequent contributor to Politico. Before coming to WIRED she was a staff writer at the New York Times—first a TV critic, then a magazine columnist, and then an opinion writer. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree and PhD in English from Harvard. In 1979 she stumbled onto the internet, when it was the back office of weird clerics, and she’s been in the thunderdome ever since.

Modern medicine offers little apart from magnifying glasses to treat presbyopia (from the Greek presbus, meaning “old man”). But those $3.99 specs will get you on your feet just fine, which is to say, you can once again relish your phone without squinting or arm-stretching. A remedy for farsightedness evidently succeeds to the degree that it restores a woman or man to the comfortable consumption of texts, email, ecommerce, and social media on a glazed rectangle of aluminum alloys held at a standard reading distance of 16 inches. With reading glasses we live again.

Doesn’t this seem like an unwholesome loop? The eyes may be unwell, but the primary object of our eyesight seems corrosive. We measure our vision against the phone, all the while suspecting the phone itself is compromising our ability to see it.

Even if we don’t say out loud that failing vision has something to do with our vastly narrowed visual field, our bodies seem to know what’s up. How convenient, for example, that you can turn up a phone’s contrast and brightness with a few taps. If perception can’t be improved, objects can be made more perceivable, right? But then the brightness seems, like morphine, to produce a need for more brightness, and you find yourself topping out, hitting the button in vain for more light only to realize that’s it. You’ve blinded yourself to the light that was already there.

Having recently, in my forties, gotten reading glasses, I now find myself having to choose between reading and being, since I can’t read without them and I can’t see the world with them. The glasses date from a time when reading was much rarer a pastime than being; you’d grope for them to see a book, while relying on your naked eyes for driving, talking, walking.

But of course now so many of us read all day long. And I opt to flood my field of vision with the merry play of pixels and emoji rather than the less scintillating, brown-gray “real world.” This means wearing the reading glasses, even on the street, and affecting blindness to everything but my phone.

What might modern vision be today without the phone as its reason for being? If you were a nomadic goatherd in the Mongolian grasslands, you might not even consider presbyopia a pathology. Many nomads carry cell phones for calls and music, but, except to play games, they rarely gaze at them. Instead, they rest their eyes on the ever-moving flock, alert to vagaries in the animals’ collective configuration and inclinations; but simultaneously they soften the vision to wide angle, so as to detect peripheral anomalies and threats. On camelback in the wide-open grasslands, the eyes line easily with the horizon, which means their eyes take in distance, proximity, an unpixelated spectrum, and unsimulated movement. A panoramic view of the horizon line roots the beholder in the geometer’s simplest concepts of perspective: foreshortening, a vanishing point, linearity, and the changeable shadows cast by the movement of the sun over and under the horizon line. That third dimension—depth—is never, ever forgotten by the nomads. The sun rises and sets on depth.

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Nik Mirus

Depending on your after-hours curriculum in Mongolia (cooking, talking, playing the fiddle), you might rarely even need to do what digital moderns never stop doing: recruit the eye’s ciliary muscle and contract it, releasing tension in the ligaments that suspend the eye to acutely curve the lens and train it to a pixelated 1.4-milimeter letter x on, for instance, a mobile news app. If you explained to a nomad the failures of her aging eyes, she might shrug: Who needs anxious ciliary muscles?

Indeed. And the use of those muscles by digital moderns gets even more complicated when we encounter our x’s not on paper—carbon-­black ink, like liquid soot, inscribed on bleached pulpwood—but on screens. That’s where we come across the quivering and uncertain symbols that play across the—surface, is it? Where are they exactly? Somewhere on or in our devices. No wonder the eyes are unwell.

Every vocation has consequences for eyesight. Ice fishermen can go snowblind. Welders suffer arc eye. Ships’ lookouts hallucinate. Academics develop myopia. And texters—call it an avocation—have blurred vision.

There are at least two recorded cases of something called smartphone blindness. The New England Journal of Medicine notes that both patients had been reading their phones in bed, on their sides, faces half-hidden, in the dark. “We hypothesized that the symptoms were due to differential bleaching of photo-­pigment, with the viewing eye becoming light-adapted.” Differential bleaching of the eyes! Fortunately, smartphone blindness of this kind is transient.

The blanket term for screen-borne eyesight problems is computer vision syndrome, an unsatisfactory name given to the blurring, dry eyes, and headaches suffered by the people of the screen. The name is unsatisfactory because, like many syndromes, it describes a set of phenomena without situating them in a coherent narrative—medical or otherwise. For contrast, arc eye is a burn: Welders get it from their exposure to bright ultraviolet light. Snowblindness is caused when corneas are sunburned by light reflecting off snow. Hallucinations afflict lookouts because, as Ishmael explains in Moby-Dick, they’re up at odd hours and alone, parsing the “blending cadence of waves with thoughts” for danger, whales, or other vessels; the brain and eyes are inclined to make meaning and mirages of undifferentiated land- and seascapes where none exist.

Computer vision syndrome is not nearly as romantic. The American Optometric Association uses it to describe the discomfort that people report feeling after looking at screens for a “prolonged” period of time. When screens pervade the field of vision all day, what counts as prolonged? (Moreover, reports of discomfort seem like not much to predicate a whole syndrome on.) But the AOA’s treatment of the syndrome is intriguing. This is the so-called 20-20-20 rule, which asks that screen people take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

The remedy helps us reverse-engineer the syndrome. This suffering is thought to be a function not of blue light or intrusive ads or bullying and other scourges. It’s thought to be a function of unbroken concentration on a screen 8 inches to 2 feet from the eyes. The person suffering eyestrain is taught to look 20 feet away but she might presumably look at a painting or a wall. Twenty feet, though, suggests it’s depth she may be thirsty for.

The naming of a syndrome discharges the latest anxiety about screens, which have always been a source of social suspicion. People who are glued to screens to the exclusion of other people are regarded with disdain: narcissistic, withholding, deceitful, sneaky. This was true even with the panels that prefigured electronic screens, including shoji, as well as mirrors and newspaper broadsheets. The mirror-gazer may have been the first selfie fanatic, and in the heyday of mirrors the truly vain had handheld mirrors they toted around the way we carry phones. And hand fans and shoji—forget it. The concealing and revealing of faces allowed by fans and translucent partitions suggest the masquerade and deceptions of social media. An infatuation with screens can easily slide into a moral failing.

Not long ago a science writer named Gabriel Popkin began leading tree walks for city dwellers in Washington, DC, whose monomaniacal attention to screens had left them tree-blind. That’s right, tree blindness—and the broader concept of blindness to the natural world—might actually be the real danger screens pose to vision. In 2012, Popkin had learned about trees to cure this blindness in himself and went from a naif who could barely pick out an oak tree to an amateur arboriculturist who can distinguish hundreds of trees. The biggest living beings in his city suddenly seemed like friends to him, with features he could recognize and relish.

I opt to flood my field of vision with the merry play of pixels and emoji rather than the brown-gray “real world.” This means wearing reading glasses, even on the street, and affecting blindness to everything but my phone.

Once he could see trees, they became objects of intense interest to him—more exhilarating than apps, if you can believe it. “Take a moment to watch and listen to a flowering redbud tree full of pollen-drunk bumblebees,” he has written. “I promise you won’t be bored.”

If computer vision syndrome has been invented as a catch-all to express a whole range of fears, those fears may not be confined to what blue light or too much close-range texting are doing to the eyesight. Maybe the syndrome is a broader blindness—eyes that don’t know how to see and minds that increasingly don’t know how to recognize nondigital artifacts, especially nature.

Lately, when I pull away from the screen to stare into the middle distance for a spell, I take off my glasses. I try to find a tree. If I’m inside, I open a window; if I’m outside, I will even approach a tree. I don’t want mediation or glass. The trees are still strangers; I hardly know their names yet, but I’m testing myself on leaf shapes and shades of green. All I know so far is that trees are very unlike screens. They’re a prodigious interface. Very buggy. When my eyes settle after a minute or two, I—what’s that expression, “the scales fell from my eyes”? It’s almost, at times, like that.

Read More

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Virginia Heffernan (@page88) is a contributing editor at WIRED and the author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.

This article appears in the April issue. Subscribe now.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/failing-vision-screens-blindness/

The Shirk Report Volume 465

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!
Later that day
Good guy police officer
When Putin offers you tea
This week in parenting
This week in old people Facebook
Pretending there’s an incoming fly ball
Pretending to work when the boss walks by
When Stephen met Jim
Ice cream definitely
– These signs have just the right level of passive aggressiveness: Bathroom | Museum
This will never get.. old (•_•) / ( •_•)>âŒâ– -â–  / (âŒâ– _â– )
Not all heroes wear capes
Do you remember your first heartbreak?
Look at this teacher’s handwriting
Boo
Duuuuuuuuuuuude
Cat like reflexes
Some parting thoughts
Until next week

10 ARTICLES

Why Earth’s History Appears So Miraculous
Reddit and the Struggle to Detoxify the Internet
Stephen Hawking, science’s brightest star, dies aged 76
Happiness report: Finland is world’s ‘happiest country’ – UN
These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race
You Can Have Emotions You Don’t Feel
Astronaut’s gene expression no longer same as his identical twin, NASA finds
The movie star who doubled as a groundbreaking inventor
The Perfect Selfishness of Mapping Apps
The Market Can’t Solve a Massacre

5 VIDEOS + epic rap battle

HERE’S TO A LOVELY WEEKEND

Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2018/03/the-shirk-report-volume-465/