30 Signs The U.S is Turning Into a Giant Prison


If you live in the United States of America, you live in a giant prison where liberty and freedom are slowly being strangled to death.

In this country, the control freaks that run things are obsessed with watching, tracking, monitoring and recording virtually everything that we do. Nothing is private anymore. Everything that you do on the Internet is being monitored. All of your phone calls are being monitored. In fact, if law enforcement authorities suspect that you have done something wrong, they will use your cell phone microphone to listen to you even when you think your cell phone is turned off.

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In many areas of the country, when you get into your car automated license plate readers track you wherever you go, and in many major cities when you are walking on the streets a vast network of security cameras and “smart street lights” are constantly watching you and listening to whatever you say. The TSA is setting up “internal checkpoints” all over the nation, Homeland Security is encouraging all of us to report any “suspicious activity” that our neighbors are involved in and the federal government is rapidly developing “pre-crime” technology that will flag us as “potential terrorists” if we display any signs of nervousness. If you are flagged as a “potential terrorist”, the U.S. military can arrest you and detain you for the rest of your life without ever having to charge you with anything.

Yes, the United States of America is rapidly being turned into a “Big Brother” prison grid, and most Americans are happily going along with it!

The sad thing is that this used to be “the land of the free and the home of the brave”. So what in the world happened?

A fundamental shift in our culture has taken place. The American people have eagerly given up huge chunks of liberty and freedom in exchange for vague promises of increased security. Our country is now run by total control freaks and paranoia has become standard operating procedure. We were told that the terrorists hate our liberties and our freedoms, and that we needed to fight the terrorists so that we could keep our liberties and our freedoms. But instead, the government keeps taking away all of our liberties and our freedoms.

How in the world does that make any sense? Have the terrorists won?

As a country, we have moved so far in the direction of communist China, the USSR and Nazi Germany that it is almost impossible to believe. Yes, turning the United States of America into a giant prison may make us all slightly safer, but what kind of life is this? Do we want to be dead while we are still alive? Is this the price that we want to pay in order to feel slightly safer? Where are the millions of Americans that still yearn to breathe free air?

America is supposed to be a land teeming with people thirsting for independence. For example, “Live Free or Die” is supposedly the official motto of the state of New Hampshire. But instead, the motto of most Americans seems to be “live scared and die cowering”.

We don’t have to live like this. Yes, bad things are always going to happen. No amount of security is ever going to be able to keep us 100% safe. We need to remember that a very high price was paid for our liberty and we should not give it up so easily. As one very famous American once said, when we give up liberty for security we deserve neither.

The following are 30 signs that the United States of America is being turned into a giant prison….

#1: A new bill that is going through the U.S. Senate would allow the U.S. military to arrest American citizens and hold them indefinitely without trial.   This new law was recently discussed in an article posted on the website of the New American….

In what may be a tale too bizarre to be believed by millions of Americans, the U.S. Senate appears ready to pass a bill that will designate the entire earth, including the United States and its territories, one all-encompassing “battlefield” in the global “war on terror” and authorize the detention of Americans suspected of terrorist ties indefinitely and without trial or even charges being filed that would necessitate a trial.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is a big supporter of the bill, and he says that it would “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield”.

According to the PPJ Gazette, the following are three things that this new law would do….

1)   Explicitly authorize the federal government to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up inside and outside the United States;

(2)   Mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilians picked up within the United States itself; and

(3)   Transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial, investigative, law enforcement, penal, and custodial authority and responsibility now held by the Department of Justice.

#2U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman is asking Google to install a “terrorist button” on all Blogger.com blogs so that readers can easily flag “terrorist content” for authorities.

#3: Most Americans have no idea how sophisticated the “Big Brother” prison grid has become.   For example, in Washington D.C. the movements of every single car are tracked using automated license plate readers (ALPRs).   The following comes from a recent Washington Post article….

More than 250 cameras in the District and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.

With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles.

Nowhere is that more prevalent than in the District, which has more than one plate-reader per square mile, the highest concentration in the nation. Police in the Washington suburbs have dozens of them as well, and local agencies plan to add many more in coming months, creating a comprehensive dragnet that will include all the approaches into the District.

#4: In some American schools, RFID chips are now being used to monitor the attendance and movements of children while they are at school.   The following is how one article recently described a program that has just been instituted at a preschool in California….

Upon arriving in the morning, according to the Associated Press, each student at the CCC-George Miller preschool will don a jersey with a stitched in RFID chip. As the kids go about the business of learning, sensors in the school will record their movements, collecting attendance for both classes and meals. Officials from the school have claimed they’re only recording information they’re required to provide while receiving   federal funds for their Headstart program.

#5: Increasingly, incidents of misbehavior at many U.S. schools are being treated as very serious crimes.   For example, when a little girl kissed a little boy at one Florida elementary school recently, it was considered to be a “possible sex crime” and the police were called out.

#6: But what happened to one very young student in Stockton, California earlier this year was even worse….

Earlier this year, a Stockton student was handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with battery on a police officer. That student was 5 years old.

#7: In the United States today, police are trained to respond to even the smallest crimes with extreme physical force.   For example, one grandfather in Arizona was recently filmed laying unconscious after police pushed his head into the flood inside a Wal-Mart on Black Friday night.   It was thought that he was shoplifting, but it turns out that he says that he was just trying to tuck a video game away so other crazed shoppers would not grab it out of his hands.

#8: Did you know that the government actually sets up fake cell phone towers that can intercept your cell phone calls?  The following is how a recent Wired article described these “stingrays”…

You make a call on your cellphone thinking the only thing standing between you and the recipient of your call is your carrier’s cellphone tower. In fact, that tower your phone is connecting to just might be a boobytrap set up by law enforcement to ensnare your phone signals and maybe even the content of your calls.

So-called stingrays are one of the new high-tech tools that authorities are using to track and identify you. The devices, about the size of a suitcase, spoof a legitimate cellphone tower in order to trick nearby cellphones and other wireless communication devices into connecting to the tower, as they would to a real cellphone tower.

The government maintains that the stingrays don’t violate Fourth Amendment rights, since Americans don’t have a legitimate expectation of privacy for data sent from their mobile phones and other wireless devices to a cell tower.

#9: U.S. border agents are allowed by law to search any laptop being brought into the United States without even needing any reason to do so.

#10: In the United States of America, everyone is a “potential terrorist”.   According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, “homegrown terrorists” represent as big a threat to American national security as al-Qaeda does.

#11: Most Americans are not that concerned about the Patriot Act, but that might change if they understood that the federal government has a “secret interpretation” of what the Patriot Act really means.   U.S. Senator Ron Wyden says that the U.S. government interprets the Patriot Act much more “broadly” than the general public does….

“We’re getting to a gap between what the public thinks the law says and what the American government secretly thinks the law says.”

#12: The FBI is now admittedly recording Internet talk radio programs all over the United States.   The following comes from a recent article by Mark Weaver of WMAL.com….

If you call a radio talk show and get on the air, you might be recorded by the FBI.

The FBI has awarded a $524,927 contract to a Virginia company to record as much radio news and talk programming as it can find on the Internet.

The FBI says it is not playing big brother by policing the airwaves, but rather seeking access to what airs as potential evidence.

#13: The federal government has decided that what you and I share with one another on Facebook and on Twitter could be a threat to national security.   According to a recent Associated Press article, the Department of Homeland Security will soon be “gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes”.

#14: What you say on your cell phone is never private.   The truth is that that the FBI can demand to see your cell phone data whenever it wants.  In addition, according to CNET News the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cell phone and listen to whatever you are saying….

The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone’s microphone and using it to eavesdrop on nearby conversations.

The technique is called a “roving bug,” and was approved by top U.S. Department of Justice officials for use against members of a New York organized crime family who were wary of conventional surveillance techniques such as tailing a suspect or wiretapping him.

#15: In some areas of the country, law enforcement authorities are pulling data out of cell phones for no reason whatsoever.  According to the ACLU, state police in Michigan are now using “extraction devices” to download data from the cell phones of motorists that they pull over.   This is taking place even if the motorists that are pulled over are not accused of doing anything wrong.

The following is how a recent article on CNET News described the capabilities of these “extraction devices”….

The devices, sold by a company called Cellebrite, can download text messages, photos, video, and even GPS data from most brands of cell phones. The handheld machines have various interfaces to work with different models and can even bypass security passwords and access some information.

#16: The federal government has become so paranoid that they have been putting GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of thousands of people that have not even been charged with committing any crimes.   The following is a short excerpt from a recent Wired magazine article about this issue….

The 25-year-old resident of San Jose, California, says he found the first one about three weeks ago on his Volvo SUV while visiting his mother in Modesto, about 80 miles northeast of San Jose. After contacting Wired and allowing a photographer to snap pictures of the device, it was swapped out and replaced with a second tracking device. A witness also reported seeing a strange man looking beneath the vehicle of the young man’s girlfriend while her car was parked at work, suggesting that a tracking device may have been retrieved from her car.

Then things got really weird when police showed up during a Wired interview with the man.

The young man, who asked to be identified only as Greg, is one among an increasing number of U.S. citizens who are finding themselves tracked with the high-tech devices.

The Justice Department has said that law enforcement agents employ GPS as a crime-fighting tool with “great frequency,” and GPS retailers have told Wired that they’ve sold thousands of the devices to the feds.

#17: New high-tech street lights that are being funded by the federal government and that are being installed all over the nation can also be used as surveillance cameras, can be used by the DHS to make “security announcements” and can even be used to record personal conversations.   The following is from a recent article by Paul Joseph Watson for Infowars.com….

Federally-funded high-tech street lights now being installed in American cities are not only set to aid the DHS in making “security announcements” and acting as talking surveillance cameras, they are also capable of “recording conversations,” bringing the potential privacy threat posed by ‘Intellistreets’ to a whole new level.

#18: If you choose to protest in the streets of America today, there is a good chance that you will be brutalized.   All over the United States law enforcement authorities have been spraying pepper spray directly into the faces of unarmed protesters in recent weeks.

#19: In many areas of the United States today, you will be arrested if you do not produce proper identification for the police.   In the old days, “your papers please” was a phrase that was used to use to mock the tyranny of Nazi Germany.   But now all of us are being required to be able to produce “our papers” for law enforcement authorities at any time.   For example, a 21-year-old college student named Samantha Zucker was recently arrested and put in a New York City jail for 36 hours just because she could not produce any identification for police.

#20: According to blogger Alexander Higgins, students in kindergarten and the 1st grade in the state of New Jersey are now required by law to participate “in monthly anti-terrorism drills”.  The following is an excerpt from a letter that he recently received from the school where his child attends….

Each month a school must conduct one fire drill and one security drill which may be a lockdown, bomb threat, evacuation, active shooter, or shelter-in place drill. All schools are now required by law to implement this procedure.

So who in the world ever decided that it would be a good idea for 1st grade students to endure “lockdown” and “active shooter” drills?

To get an idea of what these kinds of drills are like, just check out this video.

#21: With all of the other problems that we are having all over the nation, you would think that authorities would not be too concerned about little kids that are trying to sell cups of lemonade.   But sadly, over the past year police have been sent in to shut down lemonade stands run by children all over the United States.

#22: The federal government has decided to invest a significant amount of time, money and energy raiding organic farms.   The following example comes from Natural News….

It is the latest case of extreme government food tyranny, and one that is sure to have you reeling in anger and disgust. Health department officials recently conducted a raid of Quail Hollow Farm, an organic community supported agriculture (CSA) farm in southern Nevada, during its special “farm to fork” picnic dinner put on for guests — and the agent who arrived on the scene ordered that all the fresh, local produce and pasture-based meat that was intended for the meal be destroyed with bleach.

#23: It is an absolute disgrace that all of us (including grandmothers and young children) must either go through body scanners that reveal the intimate details of our naked bodies or endure “enhanced pat-downs” during which our genitals will be touched before we are allowed to get on an airplane.

It is also an absolute disgrace that the American people are putting up with this.

#24: Invasive TSA security techniques are not just for airports anymore. Now, TSA “VIPR teams” are actively conducting random inspections at bus stations and on interstate highways all over the United States. For example, the following comes from a local news report down in Tennessee

You’re probably used to seeing TSA’s signature blue uniforms at the airport, but now agents are hitting the interstates to fight terrorism with Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR).

“Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate,” said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons.

Tuesday Tennessee was first to deploy VIPR simultaneously at five weigh stations and two bus stations across the state.

TSA “VIPR teams” now conduct approximately 8,000 “unannounced security screenings” a year at subway stations, bus terminals, ports and highway rest stops.

#25: More than a million hotel television sets all over America are now broadcasting propaganda messages from the Department of Homeland Security promoting the “See Something, Say Something” campaign.   In essence, the federal government wants all of us to become “informants” and to start spying on one another constantly.   The following comes from an article posted by USA Today….

Starting today, the welcome screens on 1.2 million hotel television sets in Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton, Holiday Inn and other hotels in the USA will show a short public service announcement from DHS. The 15-second spot encourages viewers to be vigilant and call law enforcement if they witness something suspicious during their travels.

#26: Certain “types” of American citizens are being labeled as potential threats in official U.S. government documents.   An unclassified Department of Homeland Security report published a couple years ago entitled “Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” claims that a belief in Bible prophecy “could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition and weapons.”   The report goes on to state that such people are potentially dangerous.

#27: Back in 2009, the State of Missouri issued a report entitled “MIAC Strategic Report: The Modern Militia Movement“. That report warned that the following types of people may be potential terrorists….

  • anti-abortion activists.
  • those that are against illegal immigration.
  • those that consider “the New World Order” to be a threat.
  • those that have a negative view of the United Nations.

#28: As I have written about previously, a very disturbing document that Oath Keepers has obtained shows that the FBI is now instructing store owners to report many new forms of “suspicious activity” to them. According to the document, “suspicious activity” now includes the following….

  • paying with cash
  • missing a hand or fingers
  • “strange odors”
  • making “extreme religious statements”
  • “radical theology”
  • purchasing weatherproofed ammunition or match containers
  • purchasing meals ready to eat
  • purchasing night vision devices, night flashlights or gas masks

Do any of those “signs of suspicious activity” apply to you?

#29: Soon you may get labeled as a “potential terrorist” if you are just feeling a little nervous.   A new “pre-crime” technology system that is currently being tested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will soon be in use all over the nation. It is called “Future Attribute Screening Technology” (FAST), and it is very frightening. The following description of this new program comes from an article in the London Telegraph

Using cameras and sensors the “pre-crime” system measures and tracks changes in a person’s body movements, the pitch of their voice and the rhythm of their speech.

It also monitors breathing patterns, eye movements, blink rate and alterations in body heat, which are used to assess an individual’s likelihood to commit a crime.

The Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) programme is already being tested on a group of government employees who volunteered to act as guinea pigs.

#30: The truth is that nobody puts more people into prison than America does. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the largest total prison population on the entire globe.

To read about some of the crazy things that the control freaks running things have planned for the future, just check out this article by Natural News: “10 outlandish things the ‘scientific’ controllers have in mind for you in the near future“.

Final Thoughts

Once again, despite all of this outrageous “security”, it is inevitable that a lot of really bad things are going to happen in the United States in the years ahead. When there are incidents of violence, it is also inevitable that there will be calls for even more “Big Brother” security measures. We are going to be caught in a never ending spiral of tyranny where the “solution” is always even tighter security. Eventually, we will have lost all of our liberties and freedoms, and we will probably be even less safe than we are today.

Do not be deceived. We could put a soldier on every corner, a video camera in every room of every home and an RFID chip in every citizen but that would not make us “safe”.

Every single lawmaker that is backing these laws which strip our liberties and freedoms away deserves to be voted out of office. If you love the United States of America, please stand up and say something while you still can.

Please use this article and other articles like it as tools. Share them with your friends and your family. If we can get enough people to wake up, perhaps there is still enough time to turn the direction of this country around.

Will the final chapters of the history of the United States of America be mentioned in the same breath as communist China, the USSR and Nazi Germany, or will the final chapters of the history of the United States of America be the greatest chapters of all?

The choice, America, is up to you.

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Curbing Gun Violence


HMS internal medicine physician discusses gun reform and health care

AR-15 rifles.

Having undergone her training as a medical student on the South Side of Chicago, Chana Sacks thought she understood the ramifications of gun violence.

Then, in December 2012, during Sacks’ residency at Massachusetts General Hospital, a harrowing personal experience reframed her understanding of gun violence in the most painful of ways. Her cousin’s 7-year-old son, Daniel, was gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. For Sacks, now a Harvard Medical School instructor, gun violence became an aching personal reality.

Sacks powerfully captured this scarring—and transformative—experience in a 2015 commentary for The New England Journal of Medicine.

Now, an internal medicine physician at Mass General, Sacks has formed the MGH Gun Violence Prevention Coalition. She co-leads the effort with Peter Masiakos, HMS associate professor of surgery and director of the pediatric trauma service at Mass General, and Paul Currier, HMS assistant professor of medicine and a pulmonary and critical specialist at Mass General, along with Kim Sheppard Smith, a registered nurse.

For this group, the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead is the latest tragic reminder that their work is more urgently needed than ever.

Sacks sat down with Harvard Medicine News to discuss the state of gun violence research, policy and more.

HMN: Nearly 33,000 people die of firearm injuries in the United States each year and more than 67,000 are injured by gun violence. What does this mean to you as a physician and a scientist?

Sacks: These numbers are staggering and tragic because these deaths and injuries are preventable. While the stats are stark, they actually underestimate the magnitude of the problem, because this is not just about body counts. There were 3,000 students at the school in Parkland and, while thankfully most were not physically injured, those students and faculty and staff and parents and family friends are all facing long-lasting emotional sequelae. It’s important to remember that while mass shootings like this tragedy in Parkland capture the country’s attention, gun violence is a daily reality across the country for many people and many families whose pain never makes the news.

“These numbers are staggering and tragic because these deaths and injuries are preventable.” — Chana Sacks

My colleagues across every discipline—from emergency medicine, trauma surgery, rehabilitation, psychiatry, social work and other specialties—witness the devastation of gun violence firsthand. We all see the devastation of entire families when one person comes in shot.

As a clinician, I thought I understood this issue. I thought I knew what it meant. Then, when Daniel was killed, gun violence became a haunting personal reality.

HMN: Going back to cold clinical numbers, can we put them in a public health context?

Sacks: Thirty-three thousand people die each year from gun violence—that’s the same number of people dying from liver disease, and about the same number of people dying from sepsis. As clinicians, we are taught how to deal with these other causes of death that threaten our patients. I have sat through lectures on those topics, pored over well-conducted research studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. Not a single lecture, no emphasis in the curriculum, hardly any federal research funding for gun violence, which is taking just as many lives. We’re not taught how to approach it.

HMN: If you had a wish list of things to do to curb gun violence, what would the list include?

Sacks: One of the critical things we have to do to address gun violence is to reframe it as the public health and medical issue that it is. Then, we will have the power to approach it in a way that can lead to real solutions. Addressing firearm-related injuries will take a constellation of strategies. Reducing deaths from gun suicides demands a very different approach from one making sure a 5-year-old doesn’t get his hands on a gun and accidentally shoot his sister. We need to develop an understanding of the different pathways that lead to different types of gun violence. We would never expect one treatment to cure every type of heart disease. Whether it’s cardiovascular illness or gun violence, once we understand them we can devise targeted treatments.

At the same time, there are things we already know.  The common link in these tragedies is easy access to firearms. We know that access to firearms is an independent risk factor for suicide and homicide. We know that stronger firearm policies in general and stronger laws regulating permits and background checks are associated with decreased firearm homicides. We know that states with the most firearm legislation have the lowest rates of gun suicide and homicide. We know that in most mass shootings, the shooter gave warning signs that either weren’t recognized or weren’t acted upon. We know that too many guns in this country are not safely stored.

We know from the firsthand accounts of emergency room physicians, trauma surgeons and radiologists who treat gunshot victims that certain semi-automatic rifles spew lethality like no other, causing often irreparable organ damage, the kind once seen only on the battlefield.

We have important, actionable knowledge already, but still, many questions remain unanswered because of the lack of federal research funding. Speaking of a wish list, repealing the federal legislation first passed in 1996 that effectively shut down funding for gun violence research is a first order of business.  When data are absent, people get to choose their own anecdotes and treat them as fact. We cannot develop sound policy from gestalt alone. We have to test interventions and evaluate what works in a measurable way.

HMN: Much has been made of the mental health component in the gun debate. Can you address this?

Sacks: Tackling the mental health aspect of gun violence is, without doubt, critical, but it’s one component in a complex dynamic. There is a risk that people with mental illness get scapegoated in the national conversation. The fact is that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime rather than perpetrators. Painting gun violence as a mental health problem alone is reductive and is exploited by some people who are very good at distracting from the real evidence-based ways of moving forward.

HMN: The human toll of gun violence appears immeasurable. Let’s talk about dollars and cents.

Sacks: The medical costs and loss of productivity alone are estimated to cost tens of billions of dollars a year. When costs of psychological trauma, litigation, the economic impact of lower property values and the closing of businesses in areas of cities that are seen as dangerous are factored in, some estimates reach $100 billion a year or more. The ripple effects spread quickly.

HMN: What is the role of clinicians in informing the public conversation on gun violence?

 Sacks: Our first obligation is to our patients in the clinic, in the hospital, in the emergency room. We must ask about gun safety and firearms in the home. Beyond the walls of the hospital, we have an obligation to speak out about what we witness on a daily basis. We must demand policy change because gun injuries and gun deaths are, at their core, medical. Gun violence affects every discipline in medicine in a really far-reaching way: emergency medicine doctors and nurses, trauma surgeons, primary care doctors dealing with the longer term sequelae, rehabilitation specialists, infectious disease doctors who take care of patients with spinal cord injuries and neurogenic bladder who get recurrent infections, mental health specialists, social workers and so on.

HMN: If gun violence is at its core a public health issue with cultural and political dimensions, how do we disentangle one from the others?

Sacks: I don’t know that they are easily disentangled. But an organized movement demanding substantive change is growing. There are many different groups saying the same thing—enough is enough. The Parkland students are really making a difference, leading with their powerful voices.

Responsible gun owners, of whom there are millions, have a big role to play in this conversation, and many of them are part of the effort for sensible gun reform. This goes to show it’s not “us” versus “them,” although this framing may be politically expedient for some.

But ultimately, we do have to bring the political and cultural discussion back to the core question of how to reduce morbidity and mortality from firearms and how to keep our communities safe. We are talking 33,000 deaths a year from gun violence—what could be more medical than that?

Why It’s Okay to Call It ‘Fake News’


“We can’t shy away from phrases because they’ve been somehow weaponized.”

Pinocchio dolls
This week, more than a dozen high-profile social scientists and legal scholars charged their profession to help fix democracy by studying the crisis of fake news.Their call to action, published in Science, was notable for listing all that researchers still do not know about the phenomenon. How common is fake news, how does it work, and what can online platforms do to defang it? “There are surprisingly few scientific answers to these basic questions,” the authors write.

But just as notable as their admission was the language used to make it. I was surprised to find this group of scholars using the term fake news at all—even though they were calling for research into fake news.

That may sound odd. How can you study something and not call it by its name? Yet over the past year, academics and tech companies have increasingly shied away from the phrase. Facebook has pushed an alternative term, false news. And some scholars have worried that by using the term, they amplify President Trump’s penchant for calling all negative media coverage of himself “fake.”

The authors of the Science essay—who include Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor and former Obama administration official, and Duncan Watts, a social scientist at Microsoft Research—argue that avoiding the term distorts the issue. Fake news refers to a distinct phenomenon with a specific name, they say, and we should just use that name (fake news) to talk about that problem (fake news).“We can’t shy away from phrases because they’ve been somehow weaponized. We have to stick to our guns and say there is a real phenomenon here,” said David Lazer, one of the authors of the essay and a professor of political science and computer science at Northeastern University.

“We think it’s a phrase that should sometimes be used,” he told me. “We define it in a very particular way. It’s content that is being put out there that has all the dressings of something that looks legitimate. It’s not just something that is false—it’s something that is manufactured to hide the fact that it is false.”

For instance, the infamous hoax report that Pope Francis had endorsed Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy was hosted on a website that had the appearance of being a local TV station, “WTOE 5 News.” There is no station called WTOE 5 in the United States, but the plausibility of the name allowed the falsehood to spread. (That one fake story had roughly three times more Facebook engagement—that is, likes, shares, and comments—than any New York Times story published in 2016.)

Facebook now almost exclusively uses the term false news to talk about fake news. First Draft, a nonprofit research group within Harvard University, also prefers false news, arguing that fake news fails to capture the scope of the misinformation problem online. (Claire Wardle, First Draft’s director of research, goes so far as to call it “f-asterisk-asterisk-asterisk news.”)But Lazer rejected this phrase as imprecise. Not all false news, he said, is fake.

“I’m sure The Atlantic has sometimes gotten things wrong and published incorrect reporting,” he told me. “Those reports may be false, but I wouldn’t call them fake. For fake news, the incorrect nature of it is a feature, not a bug. Whereas when The Atlantic publishes something that’s incorrect, it’s a bug.”

“The term fake news, describing this problem, has been around for a long time,” he added. “There’s a wonderful Harper’s article about the role of fake news and how information technology is rapidly spreading fake news around the world. It used that term, and it was published in 1925.”

None of the political scientists endorsed President Trump’s tack of calling almost any news coverage he dislikes fake news. “We see that usage getting picked up by authoritarian types around the world,” Lazer said. But he does hope that by using the eye-grabbing term, scholars can reinforce the idea that there is something wrong with the information ecosystem, even though “it may not be the pathology that Donald Trump wants you to believe in.”

Just saying fake news won’t make the pathology go away, though. Nor is fake news the only internet’s only truth affliction.“I think there’s a whole menagerie of animals in the false-information zoo,” Lazer told me. They include rumors, hoaxes, outright lies, and disinformation from foreign governments or hostile entities. “It’s clearly the case that there was a coordinated Russian campaign around disinformation, but that’s another animal in the zoo,” he said.

Yet no research has pointed to effective ways of reducing the spread of falsehoods online. Some still-unpublished studies have suggested that labeling fake news as such on Facebook could cause more people to share it. The same goes for relying on fact-checking sites like Snopes and Politifact. “Despite the apparent elegance of fact checking, the science supporting its efficacy is, at best, mixed,” say the authors.

At times, seeing a fact-checked rumor may cause people to remember the rumor itself as true. “People tend to remember information, or how they feel about it, while forgetting the context within which they encountered it,” they write. “There is thus a risk that repeating false information, even in a fact-checking context, may increase an individual’s likelihood of accepting it as true.”

“People are not going to fact-check every sort of information they come across online,” said Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College and one of the authors of the recent Science essay. “So we have to help them make better decisions and more accurately evaluate the information they encounter.”The fight against misinformation is two-fold, he told me. First, powerful individuals and popular Twitter users have to lead the fight against fake news and bad information.

“Research has found that people who are important nodes in the network play an important role in dissemination,” especially on Twitter, Nyhan told me. “Stories are being refracted through these big hubs. And I’m not a big hub, but I think it’s important to practice what I preach.”

Nyhan, who has about 65,000 Twitter followers, tries to correct incorrect information that he’s tweeted as quickly as possible, and he also tries to courteously notify other users when they’ve been tricked by unreliable information.

“We will all inadvertently share false or misleading information—that’s part of being online in 2018,” said Nyhan. “But I think we’ve seen people in public life be wildly irresponsible.” Users who repeatedly share bad information or fake news should suffer “reptuational consequences,” he said.

He specifically criticized Laurence Tribe, a widely respected Harvard Law professor who has argued dozens of cases in the Supreme Court. Tribe also has more than 300,000 Twitter followers. “He’s one of the most important constitutional-law scholars in the country, but he has repeatedly retweeted the most dubious anti-Trump information,” said Nyhan. “He’s gotten better, but I think what he did was irresponsible.”

(In an email, Tribe responded: “I do my best to avoid retweeting or relying in any way on dubiously sourced material and assume that, with experience, I’m coming closer to my own ideal. But no source is infallible, and anyone who pretends to reach that goal is guilty of self-deception or worse.”)But individuals can never fight fake news or bad information by themselves, Nyhan said. Which led him to his second point: that online platforms like Facebook, Google, and YouTube have to work with researchers and civil-society organizations to learn how to combat the spread of falsehood.

“There are lots of people in these companies trying to do their best, but they can’t solve the problem of our public debate for us, and we shouldn’t expect them to,” he told me.

“We need more research about what works and what doesn’t on the platforms so we can be sure they are intervening in an effective way—but also so we can make sure they’re not intervening in a destructive manner,” he said. “I don’t think people take seriously enough the risks of major public intervention by the platforms. I don’t think we want Twitter, Facebook, and Google deciding what kinds of news and information are shown to people.”

“This,” he said—meaning fake news, falsehood, and the entire debacle of unreliable information online—“is not strictly the fault of the platforms. Part of what it’s revealing are the limitations of human psychology. But human psychology is not going to change.”

So the institutions that buttress that psychology—the journalists and editors, the politicians and judges, the readers and consumers of news, and the programmers and executives who design the platforms themselves—must change to accommodate it. Abraham Lincoln once said that one of the great tasks of the United States was “to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.” Now, Americans and people all over the world must show that they can use every technological blessing of that prosperity—and remain well informed, enlightened, and liberated from falsehood themselves.

The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News


Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information.

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote.

It was hyperbole three centuries ago. But it is a factual description of social media, according to an ambitious and first-of-its-kind study published Thursday in Science.

A large megaphone projects lies, fake news, falsehoods, and images of Donald Trump, Mark Zuckerberg, and Hillary Clinton. A smaller megaphone projects truth.

The massive new study analyzes every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence—some 126,000 stories, tweeted by 3 million users, over more than 10 years—and finds that the truth simply cannot compete with hoax and rumor. By every common metric, falsehood consistently dominates the truth on Twitter, the study finds: Fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories.

“It seems to be pretty clear [from our study] that false information outperforms true information,” said Soroush Vosoughi, a data scientist at MIT who has studied fake news since 2013 and who led this study. “And that is not just because of bots. It might have something to do with human nature.”

The study has already prompted alarm from social scientists. “We must redesign our information ecosystem in the 21st century,” write a group of 16 political scientists and legal scholars in an essay also published Thursday in Science. They call for a new drive of interdisciplinary research “to reduce the spread of fake news and to address the underlying pathologies it has revealed.”

“How can we create a news ecosystem … that values and promotes truth?” they ask.

The new study suggests that it will not be easy. Though Vosoughi and his colleagues only focus on Twitter—the study was conducted using exclusive data that the company made available to MIT—their work has implications for Facebook, YouTube, and every major social network. Any platform that regularly amplifies engaging or provocative content runs the risk of amplifying fake news along with it.

Though the study is written in the clinical language of statistics, it offers a methodical indictment of the accuracy of information that spreads on these platforms. A false story is much more likely to go viral than a real story, the authors find. A false story reaches 1,500 people six times quicker, on average, than a true story does. And while false stories outperform the truth on every subject—including business, terrorism and war, science and technology, and entertainment—fake news about politics regularly does best.

Twitter users seem almost to prefer sharing falsehoods. Even when the researchers controlled for every difference between the accounts originating rumors—like whether that person had more followers or was verified—falsehoods were still 70 percent more likely to get retweeted than accurate news.

And blame for this problem cannot be laid with our robotic brethren. From 2006 to 2016, Twitter bots amplified true stories as much as they amplified false ones, the study found. Fake news prospers, the authors write, “because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”

Political scientists and social-media researchers largely praised the study, saying it gave the broadest and most rigorous look so far into the scale of the fake-news problem on social networks, though some disputed its findings about bots and questioned its definition of news.

“This is a really interesting and impressive study, and the results around how demonstrably untrue assertions spread faster and wider than demonstrable true ones do, within the sample, seem very robust, consistent, and well supported,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, a professor of political communication at the University of Oxford, in an email.

“I think it’s very careful, important work,” Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College, told me. “It’s excellent research of the sort that we need more of.”

“In short, I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt the study’s results,” said Rebekah Tromble, a professor of political science at Leiden University in the Netherlands, in an email.

What makes this study different? In the past, researchers have looked into the problem of falsehoods spreading online. They’ve often focused on rumors around singular events, like the speculation that preceded the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 or the rumors that followed the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

This new paper takes a far grander scale, looking at nearly the entire lifespan of Twitter: every piece of controversial news that propagated on the service from September 2006 to December 2016. But to do that, Vosoughi and his colleagues had to answer a more preliminary question first: What is truth? And how do we know?


It’s a question that can have life-or-death consequences.

“[Fake news] has become a white-hot political and, really, cultural topic, but the trigger for us was personal events that hit Boston five years ago,” said Deb Roy, a media scientist at MIT and one of the authors of the new study.

On April 15, 2013, two bombs exploded near the route of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds more. Almost immediately, wild conspiracy theories about the bombings took over Twitter and other social-media platforms. The mess of information only grew more intense on April 19, when the governor of Massachusetts asked millions of people to remain in their homes as police conducted a huge manhunt.

“I was on lockdown with my wife and kids in our house in Belmont for two days, and Soroush was on lockdown in Cambridge,” Roy told me. Stuck inside, Twitter became their lifeline to the outside world. “We heard a lot of things that were not true, and we heard a lot of things that did turn out to be true” using the service, he said.

The ordeal soon ended. But when the two men reunited on campus, they agreed it seemed seemed silly for Vosoughi—then a Ph.D. student focused on social media—to research anything but what they had just lived through. Roy, his adviser, blessed the project.

He made a truth machine: an algorithm that could sort through torrents of tweets and pull out the facts most likely to be accurate from them. It focused on three attributes of a given tweet: the properties of its author (were they verified?), the kind of language it used (was it sophisticated?), and how a given tweet propagated through the network.

“The model that Soroush developed was able to predict accuracy with a far-above-chance performance,” said Roy. He earned his Ph.D. in 2015.

After that, the two men—and Sinan Aral, a professor of management at MIT—turned to examining how falsehoods move across Twitter as a whole. But they were back not only at the “what is truth?” question, but its more pertinent twin: How does the computer know what truth is?

They opted to turn to the ultimate arbiter of fact online: the third-party fact-checking sites. By scraping and analyzing six different fact-checking sites—including Snopes, Politifact, and FactCheck.org—they generated a list of tens of thousands of online rumors that had spread between 2006 and 2016 on Twitter. Then they searched Twitter for these rumors, using a proprietary search engine owned by the social network called Gnip.

Ultimately, they found about 126,000 tweets, which, together, had been retweeted more than 4.5 million times. Some linked to “fake” stories hosted on other websites. Some started rumors themselves, either in the text of a tweet or in an attached image. (The team used a special program that could search for words contained within static tweet images.) And some contained true information or linked to it elsewhere.

Then they ran a series of analyses, comparing the popularity of the fake rumors with the popularity of the real news. What they found astounded them.

Speaking from MIT this week, Vosoughi gave me an example: There are lots of ways for a tweet to get 10,000 retweets, he said. If a celebrity sends Tweet A, and they have a couple million followers, maybe 10,000 people will see Tweet A in their timeline and decide to retweet it. Tweet A was broadcast, creating a big but shallow pattern.

Meanwhile, someone without many followers sends Tweet B. It goes out to their 20 followers—but one of those people sees it, and retweets it, and then one of their followers sees it and retweets it too, on and on until tens of thousands of people have seen and shared Tweet B.

Tweet A and Tweet B both have the same size audience, but Tweet B has more “depth,” to use Vosoughi’s term. It chained together retweets, going viral in a way that Tweet A never did. “It could reach 1,000 retweets, but it has a very different shape,” he said.

Here’s the thing: Fake news dominates according to both metrics. It consistently reaches a larger audience, and it tunnels much deeper into social networks than real news does. The authors found that accurate news wasn’t able to chain together more than 10 retweets. Fake news could put together a retweet chain 19 links long—and do it 10 times as fast as accurate news put together its measly 10 retweets.

These results proved robust even when they were checked by humans, not bots. Separate from the main inquiry, a group of undergraduate students fact-checked a random selection of roughly 13,000 English-language tweets from the same period. They found that false information outperformed true information in ways “nearly identical” to the main data set, according to the study.

What does this look like in real life? Take two examples from the last presidential election. In August 2015, a rumor circulated on social media that Donald Trump had let a sick child use his plane to get urgent medical care. Snopes confirmed almost all of the tale as true. But according to the team’s estimates, only about 1,300 people shared or retweeted the story.

In February 2016, a rumor developed that Trump’s elderly cousin had recently died and that he had opposed the magnate’s presidential bid in his obituary. “As a proud bearer of the Trump name, I implore you all, please don’t let that walking mucus bag become president,” the obituary reportedly said. But Snopes could not find evidence of the cousin, or his obituary, and rejected the story as false.

Nonetheless, roughly 38,000 Twitter users shared the story. And it put together a retweet chain three times as long as the sick-child story managed.

A false story alleging the boxer Floyd Mayweather had worn a Muslim head scarf to a Trump rally also reached an audience more than 10 times the size of the sick-child story.

Why does falsehood do so well? The MIT team settled on two hypotheses.

First, fake news seems to be more “novel” than real news. Falsehoods are often notably different from the all the tweets that have appeared in a user’s timeline 60 days prior to their retweeting them, the team found.

Second, fake news evokes much more emotion than the average tweet. The researchers created a database of the words that Twitter users used to reply to the 126,000 contested tweets, then analyzed it with a state-of-the-art sentiment-analysis tool. Fake tweets tended to elicit words associated with surprise and disgust, while accurate tweets summoned words associated with sadness and trust, they found.


The team wanted to answer one more question: Were Twitter bots helping to spread misinformation?

After using two different bot-detection algorithms on their sample of 3 million Twitter users, they found that the automated bots were spreading false news—but they were retweeting it at the same rate that they retweeted accurate information.

“The massive differences in how true and false news spreads on Twitter cannot be explained by the presence of bots,” Aral told me.

But some political scientists cautioned that this should not be used to disprove the role of Russian bots in seeding disinformation recently. An “army” of Russian-associated bots helped amplify divisive rhetoric after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, The New York Times has reported.

“It can both be the case that (1) over the whole 10-year data set, bots don’t favor false propaganda and (2) in a recent subset of cases, botnets have been strategically deployed to spread the reach of false propaganda claims,” said Dave Karpf, a political scientist at George Washington University, in an email.

“My guess is that the paper is going to get picked up as ‘scientific proof that bots don’t really matter!’ And this paper does indeed show that, if we’re looking at the full life span of Twitter. But the real bots debate assumes that their usage has recently escalated because strategic actors have poured resources into their use. This paper doesn’t refute that assumption,” he said.

Vosoughi agrees that his paper does not determine whether the use of botnets changed around the 2016 election. “We did not study the change in the role of bots across time,” he told me in an email. “This is an interesting question and one that we will probably look at in future work.”

Some political scientists also questioned the study’s definition of “news.” By turning to the fact-checking sites, the study blurs together a wide range of false information: outright lies, urban legends, hoaxes, spoofs, falsehoods, and “fake news.” It does not just look at fake news by itself—that is, articles or videos that look like news content, and which appear to have gone through a journalistic process, but which are actually made up.

Therefore, the study may undercount “non-contested news”: accurate news that is widely understood to be true. For many years, the most retweeted post in Twitter’s history celebrated Obama’s re-election as president. But as his victory was not a widely disputed fact, Snopes and other fact-checking sites never confirmed it.

The study also elides content and news. “All our audience research suggests a vast majority of users see news as clearly distinct from content more broadly,” Nielsen, the Oxford professor, said in an email. “Saying that untrue content, including rumors, spread faster than true statements on Twitter is a bit different from saying false news and true news spread at different rates.”

But many researchers told me that simply understanding why false rumors travel so far, so fast, was as important as knowing that they do so in the first place.

“The key takeaway is really that content that arouses strong emotions spreads further, faster, more deeply, and more broadly on Twitter,” said Tromble, the political scientist, in an email. “This particular finding is consistent with research in a number of different areas, including psychology and communication studies. It’s also relatively intuitive.”

“False information online is often really novel and frequently negative,” said Nyhan, the Dartmouth professor. “We know those are two features of information generally that grab our attention as human beings and that cause us to want to share that information with others—we’re attentive to novel threats and especially attentive to negative threats.”

“It’s all too easy to create both when you’re not bound by the limitations of reality. So people can exploit the interaction of human psychology and the design of these networks in powerful ways,” he added.

He lauded Twitter for making its data available to researchers and called on other major platforms, like Facebook, to do the same. “In terms of research, the platforms are the whole ballgame. We have so much to learn but we’re so constrained in what we can study without platform partnership and collaboration,” he said.

“These companies now exercise a great deal of power and influence over the news that people get in our democracy. The amount of power that platforms now hold means they have to face a great deal of scrutiny and transparency,” he said. “We can study Twitter all day, but only about 12 percent of Americans are on it. It’s important for journalists and academics, but it’s not how most people get their news.”

In a statement, Twitter said that it was hoping to expand its work with outside experts. In a series of tweets last week, Jack Dorsey, the company’s CEO, said the company hoped to “increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable toward progress.”

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

But Tromble, the political-science professor, said that the findings would likely apply to Facebook, too. “Earlier this year, Facebook announced that it would restructure its News Feed to favor ‘meaningful interaction,’” she told me.

“It became clear that they would gauge ‘meaningful interaction’ based on the number of comments and replies to comments a post receives. But, as this study shows, that only further incentivizes creating posts full of disinformation and other content likely to garner strong emotional reactions,” she added.

“Putting my conservative scientist hat on, I’m not comfortable saying how this applies to other social networks. We only studied Twitter here,” said Aral, one of the researchers. “But my intuition is that these findings are broadly applicable to social-media platforms in general. You could run this exact same study if you worked with Facebook’s data.”


Yet these do not encompass the most depressing finding of the study. When they began their research, the MIT team expected that users who shared the most fake news would basically be crowd-pleasers. They assumed they would find a group of people who obsessively use Twitter in a partisan or sensationalist way, accumulating more fans and followers than their more fact-based peers.

In fact, the team found that the opposite is true. Users who share accurate information have more followers, and send more tweets, than fake-news sharers. These fact-guided users have also been on Twitter for longer, and they are more likely to be verified. In short, the most trustworthy users can boast every obvious structural advantage that Twitter, either as a company or a community, can bestow on its best users.

The truth has a running start, in other words—but inaccuracies, somehow, still win the race. “Falsehood diffused further and faster than the truth despite these differences [between accounts], not because of them,” write the authors.

This finding should dispirit every user who turns to social media to find or distribute accurate information. It suggests that no matter how adroitly people plan to use Twitter—no matter how meticulously they curate their feed or follow reliable sources—they can still get snookered by a falsehood in the heat of the moment.

It is unclear which interventions, if any, could reverse this tendency toward falsehood. “We don’t know enough to say what works and what doesn’t,” Aral told me. There is little evidence that people change their opinion because they see a fact-checking site reject one of their beliefs, for instance. Labeling fake news as such, on a social network or search engine, may do little to deter it as well.

In short, social media seems to systematically amplify falsehood at the expense of the truth, and no one—neither experts nor politicians nor tech companies—knows how to reverse that trend. It is a dangerous moment for any system of government premised on a common public reality.

We Shouldn’t Need Women’s Day, But We Do


Because our challenges are bigger than #MeToo.

There is something inherently ridiculous about the secular global holiday. Consider the “International Day of Happiness,” which the U.N. has set for March 20. Are the other 364 days of the year meant to be unhappy, or so-so, or ecstatic or melancholy?

(No, clearly: Most of the other 364 days are already taken, in manufactured observances of asteroids, rabies, the radio, meteorology, family remittances…)

International Women’s Day is, of course, different than the average secular global holiday. For starters, it probably would not make George Orwell puke. Older than the U.N., as well as the League of Nations and the world war that led to their creation, the observance grew out of women’s marches and strikes for better working conditions, equal pay and suffrage. The struggle it commemorates continues.

We redeemed ourselves a bit in December, with Alabama women leading the charge against notorious seducer of teenage mallrats Roy Moore.

In developing nations, whose governments tend to make women’s progress more of a priority than the United States’ does, it’s not uncommon for men to send women small gifts, cards and text messages conveying their wishes for the occasion. With such tokens, men intend to communicate their respect for women in general and their status as allies; or they intend to hit on the recipients; and often both.

In the United States, meanwhile, Women’s Day provides sponsorship opportunities for multinational corporations, as well as excuses for companies to launch new consumer products. This may seem strange, given the day’s socialist roots, but I guess that’s what passes for progress in the era of you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby late capitalism. Still, a note for Mattel: If you can’t give Frida Kahlo Barbie an anatomically possible body, at least give her a proper unibrow.

I do wish we didn’t need a day devoted to women’s rights and equality. In fact, I would happily give up March 8 for another International Day of Cheese. But then, I wish we hadn’t spent the past five months waking up to the news that yet another once-beloved actor/writer/comedian/senator/doctor/newsman had masturbated on or near a woman, threatened her with career death if she didn’t have sex with him, hit on an intern while she was seeking career advice, molested a young athlete in the examination room, used a remote to lock an office door so he could uninterruptedly assault an employee, or otherwise used his power to denigrate, exploit or f*ck a woman over.

But we did live in that terror, and we do need a day devoted to women’s rights and equality. We also need the year’s other 364 days. Sorry, asteroids.

Herewith, an entirely subjective, U.S.-focused rundown on the progress we’ve made as a gender on the aims that those crazy socialists had back in the day of your grandma’s grandma.

Suffrage: Got it, formally, though with the usual caveats: gerrymandering, voter suppression, etc. American women tend to vote at higher rates than men, in fact, but Election Day should still be a federal holiday.

There’s a separate question of whether we’re using the franchise to vote in the right people. Seriously: Some 41 percent of American women who voted in the 2016 election voted for President “When You’re a Star, They Let You Do It.” Boo, thanks and also WTF. We redeemed ourselves a bit in December, with Alabama women leading the charge against notorious seducer of teenage mall rats Roy Moore.

Equal Pay: On average, we’re stuck at 82 cents on the dollar for the same work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is way better than the penny actress Michelle Williams apparently gets on co-star Mark Wahlberg’s dollar.

But many fewer women are able to do the same kind of high-paying work as men. As of December, just 26 of America’s top 500 companies had a female CEO; that’s about 5 percent. And only about 6 percent of women were venture capitalists. That almost makes the percentage of female directors of top Hollywood films (11) look good.

Equal Line Count: In every movie that has won an Academy Award for Best Picture since 1991, the male characters speak more than the female ones. Waaaaaay more, according to an analysis by the BBC. This year, the Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water, featured a strong, memorable female protagonist … who was mute and therefore spoke no lines at all.

The F-Word: Feminism is the belief that women and men deserve equal rights and opportunities. It boggles my mind that many conservative women reject the word.

Speaking of Solidarity: It’s taken Monica Lewinsky 20 years to publicly reckon with the fact that Bill Clinton abused his power when she was an intern in the Oval Office. Meanwhile, a chorus of younger women — toddlers when Lewinsky’s ordeal began — see abuse, and threats of it, in bad dates, boorish bosses and ungainly male behavior.

Internal divides are nothing new in feminism, of course. Even the suffragettes faced opposition from their own sisters, and were held back by it. Back in 1909, one of them, a Mrs. William Force Scott (The New York Times’ account referred to her by her husband’s name, naturally), argued that a new, all-woman political party would be a force “more dangerous than labor against capital.”

An all-women party — come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea.

We Need an Interspace United Nations — Now


Because those who control space could control the Earth.

 Space. The final frontier. A place of dark matter, black holes and galactic cannibalism. Somewhere out there among the wonders of this universe possibly are other intelligent life-forms that we are destined to connect with someday.

The sci-fi community has thoroughly explored the possibilities wrapped up in that pivotal moment. There’s the international dysfunction of Arrival that brings humanity to the brink. Or the almost-apocalyptic stories of Independence Day and War of the Worlds. Or even the more subtle tension of Contact and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is, perhaps, one of the most iconic family friendly movies ever.

But what are we doing to really prepare — to avert a nonfiction disaster if and when we encounter life beyond our little, blue orb? I say it’s high time we plan for space governance.

It’s a whole new ecosystem, and you have to have a governance system that’s not closed.

Space government advocate Lorna Jean Edmonds

We know space is slowly becoming more accessible. NASA has a page on its website dedicated to space colonization. More than 1,700 satellites currently orbit the Earth, according to data from the Union of Concerned Scientists. And after its latest funding round in July, SpaceX was valued at $21.2 billion, making it one of the most valuable privately held companies in the world. The cosmos is becoming less and less “out of this world,” and as we continue to venture into that great unknown, as we start talking about space colonies, space mining and the like, we would do well to consider how to govern our atmosphere and beyond.

The United Nations’ Outer Space Treaty — more officially titled the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies — provides somewhat of a road map. It sets parameters that say space exploration should benefit everyone and that everyone is free to explore space, provided they follow the provisions in the treaty. States can’t claim ownership of celestial bodies and are responsible for private companies’ actions. All exploration should be in the “interest of maintaining international peace and security and promoting international cooperation and understanding.”

The treaty could provide a potential foundation for building a cosmopolitan space government, says Lorna Jean Edmonds, who has written about space government and was a speaker at the National Space Society’s 2015 and 2016 conferences. Such a government would help to prepare the world for the unknown variables of the universe, Edmonds says. “It’s a whole new ecosystem, and you have to have a governance system that’s not closed,” she says. “You don’t know what else is out there. … You have to continuously be nimble enough to evolve with an emerging new ecosystem.”

Gettyimages 607439084

Is it time to imagine space governance, Star Trek style?

Source Sunset Boulevard/Getty

This cosmopolitan government would be similar to a galactic United Nations, acting as a body to facilitate connections and dialogue among planets and also share culture, society, technology and other aspects of life. In terms more specifically applied to governing across galaxies, it would embrace the idea of “universalization” — an idea Edmonds helped to define as a phase of human development — meaning that in a cosmic setting, creatures place cooperation above conflict when interacting with one another. It might seem like working toward this kind of model would be shooting for the stars — it is, after all, completely different from how states interact on Earth — but it’s not completely unheard of.

Sci-fi has given us vivid descriptions of what our relationship with aliens could look like if we’re unprepared. But it’s also provided us with imaginary models that take idealistic versions of Earth’s democratic institutions and scale them up. Look at the United Federation of Planets (UFP). As described by the Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha, the UFP was “composed of planetary governments that agreed to exist semi-autonomously under a single central government based on the principles of universal liberty, rights, and equality, and to share their knowledge and resources in peaceful cooperation, scientific development, space exploration and defensive purposes.”

It’s not that this kind of government would eliminate all conflicts. Obviously, there’s plenty to stir the pot in the Star Trek world. But perhaps we should take the blank slate that space presents as an opportunity to test whether we are in fact as inherently selfish and power-driven as we believe each other to be. We might just create a stronger sense of a global community that engenders more egalitarian actions right here on Earth.

China’s Own Rust Belt Faces Economic Decline


Why you should care

Because America’s Midwest isn’t the only struggling Rust Belt.

Echo Zhang has long given up on moving back to her hometown in northeast China to be closer to her aging parents. There simply aren’t any jobs.

“In Beijing I see new technologies changing the city continuously,” the 39-year-old engineer says. “But when I go back to Jilin, it’s like stepping back in time — it’s developed so slowly.”

Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang, the three provinces of northeast China, were once the pride of the country’s planned industrial economy. But they have been among the worst hit by the scaling back of traditional heavy industries such as coal and steel and by the long-term decline in its state-owned enterprises. The northeast’s contribution to the gross domestic product almost halved to 7 percent in 2016, from 13 percent in 1980.

[The battle over the future of the northeast] is a proxy debate for the choices facing China, between market-orientated reforms or state-driven industrial policy.

Andrew Batson, China research director, Gavekal Dragonomics

As China’s economic growth slows, economists warn that bad loans and loss-making “zombie” companies are concentrated in trouble spots such as the northeast. One of its three provinces, Liaoning, last year suffered the first official recession in China since 2009, shrinking by 2.5 percent.

“The northeast’s decline is a major risk to the Communist Party’s goal to deliver a moderately prosperous society,” says Kathryn Rand, a former political officer at the British Embassy in Beijing. “This is a particular concern given the northeast’s geopolitical importance bordering North Korea and Russia, where economic and social stability is seen as essential to maintaining the status quo.”

Beijing has sought to revitalize the region by subsidizing the state-owned agricultural, steel and petroleum enterprises that dominate the northeastern economy, but this strategy has come under fire from some of the country’s most prominent economists.

“A strategy that expands the output of enterprises that are not viable is a strategy that goes against comparative advantage,” Justin Yifu Lin, a former World Bank chief economist, wrote last year.

He proposed a switch in state support to sectors in which the region enjoys advantages over the rest of the country, such as labor-intensive light industry, which would benefit from the region’s relatively cheap wages, and tourism. Hu Shuli, founder of business magazine Caixin, responded that the region should “shed its big-government mindset” and allow private business to flourish.

Andrew Batson, China research director at the Gavekal Dragonomics consultancy, says the battle over the future of the northeast “is a proxy debate for the choices facing China, between market-orientated reforms or state-driven industrial policy.” Government pledges to allow the private market to flourish are at odds with continued state subsidies for government enterprises, and locals are increasingly vocal about the failure of local officials to enact market-driven policies.

While three-quarters of Chinese graduates chose to work in their home regions last year, according to the Beijing-based consultancy Mycos, the figure was less than half in the northeast. About 1.8 million are estimated to have left the northeast in the past decade.

“I have no hope for a ‘northeastern revival,’” says Hao Xuesong, a property developer, back in Jilin city for a school reunion. His pessimism is shared by former classmates, who say the northeast’s sluggishness is the result of its officials being too “left” — bureaucratic, rigid and wedded to the old ideal of the planned economy. The bureaucracy is also riddled with corruption, according to a former Liaoning civil servant who now works for a multinational company in Shanghai. She says she left “because I couldn’t find a suitable job” in the civil service.

“I think the problem is not that getting a promotion is difficult; the problem is it’s not transparent,” she says. “I don’t have the social connections to secure a job in state-owned banks or even local commercial banks. Private companies in Liaoning are less well paid.”

The northeast has also struggled to attract investors. It was the only region in China in which private fixed-asset investment fell from 2016–2017. Ma Jiantang of the Chinese Academy of Governance told a recent government conference that many entrepreneurs believed “investment should not cross the Shanhai Pass,” a section of the Great Wall of China that divides the northeast from the rest of the country.

Zhang Lihua, director of tech company Changchun Boli, also acknowledges that the northeast is at a competitive disadvantage. “There’s a good foundation for growth here, if we can make reforms. But the southern provinces compete aggressively for talent and companies, and the northeast is some way behind.”

Lu Xiaomeng, assistant professor at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance at Jiao Tong University, who grew up in the northeastern city of Harbin, is confident private investment will slowly rise. But this can happen only if the power of the state-owned enterprises is curbed. “The problem of SOEs’ influence is a nationwide issue,” she adds. “It’s just that SOEs dominate the northeastern economy. My hope is the private sector can thrive.”

Trafficking: Taking Care of Sarah


Sarah

The neighbors called the police when they heard screaming. An officer discovered her hiding in a closet in a trailer. In the emergency room bay, I find Sarah naked except for a T-shirt. Her legs are drawn up, arms wrapped around her knees, head down. She looks severely malnourished, and her teeth are broken and decayed. Bites, bruises and stab wounds cover her body. There are strangulation marks on her neck. There are track marks on her skin. Someone has been stubbing out cigarettes on her arms.

Sarah doesn’t know her location, the time or the date. She has no documentation: no driver’s license, bank card, nothing. When I ask her whom she lives with in the trailer, she is too terrified to answer.

Sarah is 18 years old.

What Is Trafficking?

Trafficking is the recruiting, transporting, harboring or receiving of a person through force in order to exploit her or him for prostitution, forced labor or slavery.

According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. Many more are never identified. And in the U.S., the Polaris Project has received over 30,000 reports of trafficking through its national hotline in the past eight years, and many more are at risk. Sarah is one of these children.

Victims can be anybody, and it is too easy to dismiss them as addicts or prostitutes. Trafficking is a violation of basic human rights and crosses socioeconomic class and gender barriers. A teenaged boy in my ER was kicked out by his alcoholic father, and a friendly stranger offered to help him. Before he knew it, he was cut off from family and friends, and forced to take drugs and trade sex for shelter.

How Do You Recognize a Victim of Sex Trafficking?

There are warning signs. Sarah’s presentation for care was delayed—she was not brought to the hospital when she was first injured. Other warning signs I learned about include: inappropriate or lacking clothing, signs of malnourishment, fear or distrust, reluctance to speak, and lack of identifying documents.

Physical health indicators include: bruising, burns, cuts, broken teeth, memory loss, insomnia, weight loss, malnutrition, loss of appetite, STDs, genital trauma, substance abuse and somatic complaints.

Victims might have mental health issues: suicidal thoughts, hypervigilance, anxiety, signs of withdrawal, dissociation and detachment, difficulty engaging in social interactions and feelings of shame or guilt.

The trafficker might be with the victim. This person might be overly controlling, or the patient might appear submissive in his or her presence. I separate the patient from such people and ask simple questions: Can you tell me about the person who brought you here? Do you feel pressured to trade sex for money or anything else? Has anyone threatened you? Are you able to leave your room or house whenever you want?

By recognizing the signs of sex trafficking and increasing our awareness in the healthcare community, I think healthcare professionals can help. We might prevent further abuse and protect victims this way. I have been talking with psychiatric access nurses, social services, and shelters in an effort to collate the resources available in our ERs.

Sarah

At sixteen, Sarah was homeless until she met John, who said he would take care of her. He took her to a house where other women lived, where weed, cocaine and crystal meth littered the tables. Sarah was forced into sex that first day. At gunpoint, she was forced to take drugs. John gave her lingerie but little else: no toothbrush, no bed, not even tampons. She was forced into sex with every man John brought to her. And they were many. She was told she couldn’t leave, as she owed John money.

It takes me a while to earn Sarah’s trust and for her to tell me her story. I reassure her that her safety is our first priority and remind her that the police won’t prosecute her for possession or prostitution—a legitimate fear for victims of trafficking. I tell her that she won’t return to the trailer. We find her safe shelter and resources for rebuilding her life.

Sarah’s plight shocks me. She was held captive for at least six months in a trailer between a brothel house and an apartment building right on my route to work. I realize that sex trafficking is happening here where I live. I have driven past it every day. I wonder how many more around me live like Sarah.

As healthcare professionals, we cannot correct this problem alone, nor take away a victim’s trauma. But we can do more, and my hope is that through increased awareness, we can help more victims.

 

Power and Corruption: The Matrix of the Master and Slave


“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience and rebellion that progress has been made.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Despite infinite variation in political thinking and being, there are four types of thinkers in our society; idiots, zealots, elitists and patriots. One can observe there are four types of institutions as well; government, religious, corporate and media institutions, of many shades of variation. And there are the four types of lies those institutions use, to corrupt and control our thinking and being.

Government institutions corrupt culture. Religious institutions corrupt spirituality. Corporate institutions corrupt trade. Media institutions corrupt thinking. Today, such institutional corruption is rampant to the point that it has become unspoken normalcy, and speaking up to it is quietly viewed as disruption; dissent.

In a just world where righteousness was the norm, police officers would be peacekeepers upholding just laws, and legality would run its course parallel with morality; government would govern for the people; media would share information accurately and freely, without bias; and religious institutions would promote spiritual individuation. But the level of corruption is essentially relative to the level of comprehension of the population. Corruption cannot flourish in a transparent, well-informed society. The more aware a community is of the functions of their institutions, the more the community demands that legality runs parallel with morality, etc.

Essentially, corrupt institutions, to one extent or another, enslave individuals to those institutions. Institutions first become corrupted by individuals, and over time, these institutions are used to further corrupt the individuals in that society. Our institutions are designed to limit our access to knowledge and therefore, our thinking, and promote zealotry and elitism as the new political ideal — and as a result, many in our society are unable to comprehend the difference between legal and moral much less why the two have diverged.

There really is no need to conduct extensive research or to formulate a vast “conspiracy theory” as it concerns the matter of corrupt institutions enslaving individuals. It merely requires objective observation of our present reality and a slight understanding of the past. As the Ice T song of the same name says, “everything’s corrupt.”  Whether the slavery is literal or mental imprisonment, or debt servitude, or spiritual co-option, or mass psychological manipulation, the result — terminology aside — is slavery.

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” ~ George Orwell (O’Brien), 1984

Yes, institutions enslave individuals. Rather than point out legitimate observations by contemporary individuals unfettered by the said institutions, perhaps it is wise to take retrospect at exactly what great thinkers of the Western world have said.

Lord Acton

John Dalberg-Acton (1834-1902) was a writer and politician, and his words are part of a foundational thought pattern wherever people consciously desire to reform our institutions to serve liberty and fairness:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Of course the entire statement is even more revealing than the well-known snippet.

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.” ~ Lord Acton

Finding truth in corruption is like finding clean water in an industrialized society. We know through evidence that governments and corporations will use everything up to and including science to lie, making it so that distinguishing truth among the presentation of statistics (etymology: state math), and scientific validation requires not only an understanding of mathematics and physics, but of politics and prejudice as well.

 

The best technique for finding truth amidst corruption is to eliminate preconceptions (as much as possible) and simplify the contemplation of reality (as much as possible). Mostly, the corruption that Lord Acton points out exerts control by distorting the perception and therefore the reality that manifests. Thus it is helpful to lose the preconceptions in order to penetrate the truth, otherwise we will see things as we like to, as we prefer to, or as our preconceptions hold to.

Take a new look with what the Buddhists refer to as the Beginner Mind. This technique approaches all things with the innocent questioning of a child. Another technique I believe is employable is to pretend you are blind. If you could not see images but only could only contemplate the story, your perception of situations can change though simplification. This can be helpful in providing clarity enough to then use other legitimate forms of observation.

The world was deeply divided during Lord Acton’s life, divided by a gulf between the haves and have-nots. The simple observation Lord Acton made – that those haves in power are much more likely than the rest of us to be corrupt, for they have the power to be so – as well as the reasoning behind it is as true today as it was back then. And the gulf between the haves and have-nots is wider than ever. Now today, beyond Lord Acton’s Rule is an even more troubling observation, that most of the world is partaking in, or stuck in, a sick system of Master and Slave.

Georg Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the Philosopher best known for conceptualizing the Hegelian Dialectic and the ‘Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis’ model of thinking, on which I expounded here, also formed The Master and Slave philosophy. In an extraordinary exploration of world history and the evolution of human consciousness, Hegel’s theory presents an extraordinary and compelling truth; the world is made up of masters and slaves and neither will ever become conscious unless this pattern is broken and remade. Moreover, the more conscious individuals are, the less likely they will enslave others, or accept enslavement. Indeed, observation with the Beginner Mind, or observing as though blind, certainly points to this dynamic.

The core presentation of the Hegelian Philosophy of The Master and Slave is that when one consciousness meets the other the stronger one will enslave the other. If the slave does not revolt this status quo will remain; and neither becomes conscious. If The Slave becomes conscious there is revolution. Only then is The Master conscious as well. Only when The Slave revolts is either The Slave or Master conscious. In summation, only in revolution is there a transformation of consciousness internally and externally. Only when someone stands up and curses “F*** the authorities”, like say, Jesus, is either party compelled toward the realization of consciousness.

In today’s war world, the only revolution is change through peaceful means; through understanding. The Philosophy of The Master and Slave is profound and worthy of further reading and research. But now to add to the idea, the world is never just black and white. The world may be primarily made up of the black-and-white condition of masters and slaves, but, as in all things, there are grey areas as well. Perhaps this is how people can so easily deny they are in either predicament.

Masters and Slaves — Worldlings and the Worldly

To understand this predicament, as with all comprehensive thinking, one must consider this situation using a matrix of four. Our divided world is made up not only of the Masters and the Slaves, but also of the Worldlings and the Worldly. The Worldlings support and eat off of the Master/Slave system, while the Worldly support the Slaves and seek to instigate revolt, in order to spark the development of consciousness of the Slaves and Masters both.

As much as possible, wherever it is, we must call out the Masters and the Worldlings for what they are; purveyors and benefactors of slavery. And at the same time we must make every attempt to inspire more Slaves to become Worldly and shake off the shackles — and their shacklers — from their backs.

 

Perhaps one of the most crucial adjustments to make and inspire others to pursue is to actively distinguish individuals from institutions, and more subtly, constructs of individuation from those of institutionalization. In order to accomplish this important recognition, focused examination is required. One need not a complex theory or philosophy, just a recognition of the institutions and individuals around us. Ask yourself:

Are the four types of institutions — government, religious, corporate and media — truly serving our society, or are they corrupting situations, or both?

Why do I accept it as normal that our nation’s leaders lie? That individuals are acting as if they are institutions, hiding behind the protection of institutional veils? 

In a just world where righteousness was the norm, would corporations need to pirate the rights of individuals, of personhood? Would government take rights away from the people and grant them to corporations?

Would religious institutions, supposedly the bastions of charity, be among the world’s wealthiest? 

Would the media fail to report on major world events while circulating others on endless repeat? 

Government corrupts culture, religion corrupts spirituality, corporations corrupt exchange, and media corrupts thinking and intuition around you…

While institutional encroachment on our society continues, perhaps the most important distinction we can maintain today is always to differentiate between individuals and institutions. he Worldly may spark the consciousness that ends the Master/Slave cycle of corruption.

Peace on Earth.

Poor More Likely to Suffer During South Africa’s Dire Drought


Cape Town, South Africa is in the throes of a years-long drought that could earn it a truly alarming distinction: the first major city in the developed world to run out of water.

South Africa as a whole is experiencing its worst drought in a century. The six dams that supply Cape Town’s water have dropped to just 15.2 percent capacity of usable water, according to the Los Angeles Times, down from 77 percent in September 2015. Enforcement of strict water restrictions – which cut permitted daily consumption from 23 gallons per day to just 13.2 gallons – begin February 1.

Shravya K. Reddy, principal at Pegasys Strategy and Development and Climate Reality’s former director of science and solutions, lives in Cape Town and says that while several factors – including relatively rapid population growth, poor planning, and people ignoring previous water restrictions – have all contributed to this crisis, officials’ failure to recognize the role that climate change plays in exacerbating drought has made the situation even more dire.

“Decision-makers well-versed with climate science would have taken it seriously and would have started treating this drought, even in 2015 or 2016, as if it would last longer than usual,” Reddy tells Climate Reality. “Instead, they seemed to never escalate the preparations for additional water supplies or accelerate water augmentation projects in the belief that taking drastic action would be overkill, since the rains would come. If they had taken more concerted action two years ago or early last year, then they would not need to be on such war footing right now.”

Climate change worsens drought because as temperatures rise, evaporation increases. When this evaporation happens over land, soils dry out. Many places are also experiencing both decreases in annual precipitation and longer periods without significant rain, resulting in reduced water levels in streams, rivers, lakes, and (importantly) reservoirs. When rains do come, much of the water runs off the hard ground and is carried back to the ocean before it can fully replenish dams, reservoirs, or the water table.

All of Cape Town’s citizens are feeling the impact of the drought, but the city’s lower-income residents are already bearing the brunt. Should the city, which has a population of more than 4 million people in its greater metropolitan area, run out of water on April 21, as many are predicting, their plight will become truly desperate.

“Socio-economic disparity is evident in both peoples’ access to critical information, as well as in the measures people are taking to prepare for ‘Day Zero,’ the day when the city has to shut off municipal water and taps literally run dry,” Reddy says. “In speaking with people who typically have to work the longest hours just to financially survive, it seems to me that they simply don’t have access to the same levels of information we do, and thus are less empowered to make informed decisions about how they will cope and manage.”

This disparity, she adds, can often be traced back to a lack of computer and internet access among many of South Africa’s lower-income communities.

Another imbalance has become clear: Wealthier citizens have the resources to prepare and safeguard themselves from the worst of the water crisis’ impacts.

“Those with more disposable income can stock up on more bottled water. We can also invest in more water-saving devices,” Reddy explains. “Many of Cape Town’s most under-resourced residents live in what we call townships or informal settlements – what the West would call shanty towns or even slums – and they’re lucky if they have a communal water source amongst eight to 10 families. They certainly cannot buy and hoard bottled water.

“People with means – transportation as well as leisure time – can drive farther out of the city to areas where clean, potable water comes out of natural springs and can collect water to take home. Those who don’t have the luxury of a car and time to drive around are less able to take advantage of such natural springs hours away.”

She notes that some retailers are even taking advantage of the situation, increasing the price of common water conservation tools like buckets, pitchers, and other water storage units because of higher market demand, making them even less accessible to the people who may need them the most.

And beyond the obvious necessity of clean drinking water, Reddy worries that “significant public health challenges will emerge as a result of people not being able to maintain individual and institutional hygiene.” The risk of water-borne diseases and other bacterial infections may also rise sharply, elevating the risk of serious public health issues.


“Money buys other adaptation means too. The wealthy have greater ability to buy more new clothes as a response to less clothes washing, ordering takeout food as a response to less cooking and dishwashing, buying ‘chemical toilets,’ tons of wet-wipes, hand sanitizer, and leaving the city for long stretches of time to escape elsewhere – either by renting places in other cities or staying with friends and family who can afford to accommodate long-term guests,” she continues.

“Based on what several people in my circles have been saying, it is clear that some people will have the ability to temporarily leave the city and move to their second homes out in the countryside, to parts of the province that are not as water stressed. Some may even temporarily move to Johannesburg or leave the country until some semblance of normalcy is restored. The majority of the city’s residents do not have that immense privilege.”

Reddy concludes on a note that has become all too familiar for many already experiencing the climate crisis firsthand: “Certainly in the case of climate change adaptation in any community, anywhere in the world – those with greater means at their disposal will fare better.”

With each new natural disaster, the truth becomes clearer: The most vulnerable among us are on the front lines of a crisis they had the least to do with creating – and if we don’t act now to support solutions and end climate change, we may reach a point of no return.

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