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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fact Checking Group Slams New Democratic Ad for “Deception”

Fact Checking Group Slams New Democratic Ad for “Deception”


Fact Checking Group Slams New Democratic Ad for “Deception”

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:48 AM PDT

The political fact checking site FactCheck.org slammed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Thursday over an ad the group described as deceptive, a characterization the DCCC disputes.

The ad was released by the DCCC in the New Jersey race between Republican Tom MacArthur and Aimee Belgard. It accuses MacArthur of "cheating disaster victims" while a CEO of a risk management company. MacArthur and Belgard are competing to fill the congressional seat being left open by GOP Rep. Jon Runyan, who is not seeking reelection.

Factcheck.org's primary objection to the ad is that MacArthur was never personally cited for wrongdoing, but rather that his company was sued—twice—for mishandling insurance claims of Hurricane Ike and the 2008 Syre Fire in California, while MacArthur was chairman and CEO. Factcheck objects chiefly to a visual that placed MacArthur's name above the quote "accused of cheating disaster victims." The audio of the ad does say that MacArthur ran the insurance company, not that he was personally accused.

In a statement to TIME, the DCCC stood by the ad and criticized FactCheck.org for not contacting the group for comment before running it's critique.

“If factcheck.org had called us before running their item, we would have happily shared the reality: that this ad clearly and accurately communicates to voters that under Tom MacArthur’s leadership, his company was accused of cheating disaster victims and he profited," said DCCC spokesperson Emily Bittner.

 

Watch: Taylor Swift Nerds Out With Jimmy Fallon

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:38 AM PDT

Taylor Swift went on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday night and did not hold back, unleashing her inner nerd during one of Fallon’s signature sketches.

Fallon plays sassy pre-teen Sara (with no “h”), who hosts the segment “Ew.” Swift plays his guest, 13-year-old Natalie, who has a Band-Aid collection. This was far from Swift’s first time showing off her nerdy side, as evidenced by her music video for “You Belong With Me.”

The music superstar is set to perform at the Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 24.

Getting Sick From Planes Is Way Less Likely Than You Think

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:38 AM PDT

The person next to you on your eight-hour flight is clearly not feeling well—coughing, running to the lavatory frequently. Great, you think. I'm going to catch some horrible virus.

Actually, probably not. Although most of us would swear that we caught a flu as the result of air travel, airliners are not great at spreading infectious diseases among passengers. (Bacteria is another story, though. See the 6 Germiest Places on a Plane for what to be careful about.) According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigation, if a suspected tuberculosis carrier was aboard a jet, the agency wouldn't expect exposure to possible infection to extend beyond two rows in either direction.

Airliners are, however, very good at delivering infectious diseases to entire countries. The SARS breakout in Canada in 2003, which sickened 400 people and killed 44, was traced to a single airline passenger—the index patient—who traveled from Hong Kong to Toronto and fell ill after she arrived home. Most of the cases were hospital-acquired, however, including healthcare workers themselves. SARS seemed to have skipped the airline passengers altogether.

Likewise, the chance of catching Ebola from a fellow passenger is remote. The virus is spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, not by sitting in a middle seat. "The one thing we have as an advantage is the lack of airborne transmissibility," says Dr. David R. Shlim, president the International Society of Travel Medicine. "It's not likely to get in an airplane and then float down the aisle."

The World Health Organization, which plays traffic cop to the planet's disease vectors, has warned reasonably for travel restrictions for anyone suspected of having Ebola. Airport and health authorities in Lagos and Monrovia are screening passengers for symptoms before they board and anyone stricken with such symptoms is unlikely to be able to travel, although it's certainly not impossible. In the U.S., the CDC mans quarantine stations at international airports, such as John F. Kennedy in New York City and Newark Liberty in New Jersey, that act as the front-line defense against infectious visitors.

The bigger issue is that a virulent illness—SARS, MERS, and perhaps some superbug lurking somewhere waiting for a ticket out—can be delivered around the globe with relative ease given the expansion in air travel. A million passengers a day enter the United States, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency. "Diseases that used to smolder can now move more quickly. You can get anywhere in 24 hours," says Shlim. "All the public health officials know about that and are concerned about it." Consider chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that causes fever and joint pain. According to the CDC, the chikungunya virus reached the Americas via the islands of the Caribbean in late 2013. "There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers," the CDC notes. Sure enough, a case was discovered in Florida this year.

The WHO hasn't gone so far as recommending a travel embargo to the Ebola-affected nations, but that would be the logical progression if the outbreak can't be reined in with the current program, called Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak Response Plan. During Canada's SARS outbreak, the WHO issued a travel advisory that recommended that tourists avoid the Toronto area. It's not known whether the advisory stopped SARS from spreading, but it did severely damage Canada's tourism industry before being withdrawn after a few days after the Canadian government protested the advisory.

Stopping the movement of people is the ultimate way of keeping a viral disease in check geographically. But in the more connected world of global logistics it will be increasingly difficult to do so. Although ebola is terrifying in that there is no widely available remedy, there's no reason to change your flight plans, even to Africa.

That doesn't mean people won't. "I can't think of any example of one person got on a plane and 30 people got off sick," Shlim notes. The biggest concern on your next jet ride isn't going to be Ebola. It's more like measles, which is very contagious. The risk there isn't from a third-world passenger arriving from Africa. It's more likely a 7-year American kid who hasn't been vaccinated.

Why Ferguson Was Ready to Explode

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:24 AM PDT

The late Tom Eagleton, longtime Democrat Senator from Missouri, in speaking to a group of NFL owners some years ago referred to St. Louis as "a raucous Des Moines," despite its Southern pedigree (St. Louis had slavery); its role as portal to the American West (St. Louis proudly calls itself "the gateway city"); and its reputation of being more refined and "eastern" than its bigger western sister, Kansas City. Perhaps St. Louis, in its heart, is something of a mid-sized, Midwestern burg, a bigger, more lively, and urban version of Sinclair Lewis's Main Street. St. Louis has always thought itself as current in a benign way, hardly avant-garde, but a charming, if declining, metropolis with a glorious past, when, in the 19th Century, the nation ran through this city.

It's a past that is ever receding in history's rearview mirror. Race relations here have been managed on the seemingly civil principle of slouching away from the worst, most benighted, aspects of the past in tolerable increments that comfort the white establishment and infuriate white liberals and leftists. There was no riot here during the 1960s, when they were almost a radical rite of passage for American cities. Some might even think that St. Louis was ahead of other cities in the political progress African Americans made here in the 1960s under Bill Clay, Percy Greene, and the Congress of Racial Equality.

Then comes the 21st Century and the age of Obama, and a white policeman shoots an unarmed African American teenager in the African American, lower middle class suburb of Ferguson, and the pent-up racial fury of decades breaks loose. Is St. Louis now the canary in the mine, a harbinger, or was it always behind the curve?

St. Louis is a region of division: The depopulated, deindustrialized city (mostly African American) is legally divided from the far more prosperous (mostly white) county, with the city ardently seeking a reunion that the county vehemently spurns. North St. Louis city (largely African American) is estranged from south St. Louis city (mostly white) in a city that is now 48% African American. The maze of suburbs that make up north St. Louis county, where Ferguson is, is mostly African American and estranged from the maze of suburbs that make up south and west St. Louis counties, which are mostly white.

These interlocking networks of fragmentation that characterize the St. Louis, frequently deplored but diligently maintained, have managed to keep African Americans here contrarily concentrated and diffuse, politically empowered (there have been African American mayors, police chiefs, etc.) but also politically contained, and, in many respects, isolated from the cultural and political currents of the region. There remains in St. Louis a sense that African Americans are strangers in a strange land. The region is what sociologists call "hyper-segregated."

Enter this iron triangle of control, neglect and racial alienation, and one uncovers several recent racial narratives that should have warned St. Louisans about what was coming—narratives about crossing the racial divide here. Metrolink, St. Louis's light rail system, completed its second line in 2006. It provided African Americans of East St. Louis, one of the poorest cities in the country, and of north St. Louis county much easier access to the St. Louis Galleria Mall and the central cultural corridor of the city, including the hip Delmar Loop district. Concurrently, the Galleria has since seen an astronomical increase in shoplifting, and there has also been an increase in general crime and hooliganism in the Delmar Loop. This has led many to think that the Metrolink, as it has crossed racial boundaries, has enabled African American teenaged crime. This vicious cycle of young African Americans' antisocial hostility and acting out, hardly unique to African Americans or even to Americans, and ever increasing white fear and barricade building, have intensified racial tensions, as people find the problem intractable and increasingly impossible to discuss honestly. The current riot in Ferguson is largely a war between police and the young African Americans who think cops exist mostly to prevent African American from harming whites.

Another cautionary signal: In February 2008, Charles Lee "Cookie" Thornton, a lifelong African American resident of the suburb of Kirkwood, murdered Kirkwood's mayor (who died several months later), a police sergeant, a mayoral candidate and two other citizens at a city council meeting, an act that must rate among the most horrendous political assassinations in American history. Thornton was killed by police. He was clearly deranged, but what drove him crazy was his sense of betrayal at the hands of white Kirkwood. Thornton had grown up in the all-African American Meachum Park area of Kirkwood, was a rabid supporter of Kirkwood's 1991 annexation of Meachum Park, and was, if anything, for a time, an emblem of crossing St. Louis's racial divide.

Many of Thornton's demons were imaginary. Yet his unhappiness, his disappointment that the racial divide within the suburbs was impossible to transcend is felt by manyAfrican American. So, Thornton, in his brother's words, "went to war." And so has, it now seems, a portion of African American St. Louis, triggered by a particular outrage, but largely an expression of rage against a particular set of enduring arrangements. Perhaps the problem with race relations is that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Gerald Early is Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at Washington University in St. Louis.

Here’s How Much Money the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Has Now

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:17 AM PDT

More than a week after the Ice Bucket Challenge first went viral, people keep dumping ice on their heads, and the ALS Association keeps collecting money. The organization’s national office has received $5.5 million for Lou Gehrig’s disease research since July 29, compared to $32,000 in the same period last year.

ALS Association spokeswoman Carrie Munk said earlier this week that the organization is “thrilled and completely amazed” at the sum they continue to raise and the public awareness the campaign has generated. Nearly 150,000 new donors have given to the cause as of Thursday.

The challenge, if you haven’t seen it already, features people dumping cold water on their heads and then nominating friends to do the same. If nominees don’t accept the challenge, they’re asked to donate money instead. A number of high profile figures have dumped ice on their heads, like Chris Christie and Mark Zuckerberg. Others, like President Obama, opted to donate instead.

Obama: ‘No Excuse’ for Ferguson Violence

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:15 AM PDT

President Barack Obama said Thursday there is “no excuse” for violence against police or protestors in Ferguson, Mo., where intense clashes have broken out following the shooting death by police of unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

In his first public statement on the death and subsequent violence, Obama appealed for justice and calm, calling on all sides to deescalate a tense situation that has embroiled the town in violence for five days. “I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images that we've seen in the heartland of our country,” Obama said.

Earlier this week, Obama tasked Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to begin an independent investigation of Brown’s death. “I made clear to the Attorney General that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened and to see that justice is done,” Obama said. He was briefed by Holder on Thursday morning on the status of the investigation.

Obama faulted local police for their secrecy surrounding the shooting, as well as the excessive violence used against peaceful protestors.

“When something like this happens, the local authorities, including the police, have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death and how they are protecting the people in their communities,” Obama said. “There is never an excuse for violence against police or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting. There's also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests or to throw protesters in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.

“And here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground,” Obama added, in reference to the brief arrest of two reporters in Ferguson on Wednesday night by police that became wall-to-wall news nationwide.

Obama said he spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Thursday before addressing reporters, calling the governor "a good man and a fine governor.”

“I'm confident that working together, he's going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way,” he said.

“Now is the time for healing,” Obama said. “Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.”

Screaming at Your Phone Might Charge It Someday

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 10:02 AM PDT

Researchers at Nokia and Queen Mary University in London believe they have a novel solution to smartphone battery limitations: Instead of trying to improve the battery itself, they’ve figured out how to keep it charged through sound waves.

The key, according to Gizmag, is the use of zinc oxide, whose piezoelectric properties can generate an electrical current from mechanical stress. The researchers started by spraying zinc oxide onto a plastic sheet and heating it in a chemical mixture, creating an array of zinc oxide “nanorods.”

The nanorod sheet bends in response to sound waves, creating enough mechanical stress to generate electricity. Researchers then sandwiched the sheet between layers of aluminum foil to harvest the voltage.

On a prototype device roughly the size of Nokia’s Lumia 925, the researchers were able to generate up to five volts from background noise such as traffic, music and voices. They claim that’s enough help charge a phone, though it’s not clear to what extent.

It’s easy to get excited about these kinds of developments, but keep mind that success in a university lab is a poor indicator of future products. For years, we’ve been hearing about amazing battery research, from the ability to charge electronics with a heartbeat to instant charging technology to entirely new battery chemistry, but none of these advancements have appeared in actual phones that you can buy today. Many of them must address significant hurdles around design, cost, manufacturing and safety before they become practical for the market.

In other words, you’ll have many more realistic reasons to scream at your phone for the foreseeable future.

North West Makes Her Solo Modeling Debut Dripping With Chanel

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 09:46 AM PDT

In the words of Karl Lagerfeld, “It is never too early to care about fashion.” The same seems to be true when it comes to modeling, as least in the case of little North West. The 13-month-old daughter of Kanye West and Kim Kardashian has made her modeling debut in this fall’s issue of CR Fashion Book.

The photo, taken by photographer Michael Avedon for an editorial spread called "Legends," is captioned with Lagerfield’s words and dubs the littlest West the “Future” of fashion. Carine Roitfeld, the former French Vogue editor and the found of CR Fashion Book, styled little North for the shoot, pairing her with a Chanel brooch and bag, and some Lorraine Schwartz diamond earrings.

Did we mention that this is a baby we’re talking about here? But while it might all sound just a wee bit ridiculous, it’s important to remember that North isn’t just any baby: She’s already appeared in the pages of Vogue, along with her parents, and is due to appear in the upcoming wedding episodes of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Then there’s the countless paparazzi photos she’s already appeared in throughout her young life, not to mention her mother’s Instagram feed. With that in mind, a black-and-white photo shoot wearing high-fashion labels doesn’t really seem all that out of line.

Missouri to Pull County Police From Ferguson Amid Criticism of Tactics

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 09:44 AM PDT

St. Louis County police will be withdrawn from Ferguson, Mo., Gov. Jay Nixon will announce Thursday, in a law enforcement shift for a town where anger over the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager have sparked violent protests.

Nixon’s forthcoming announcement was first revealed by Missouri Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay, who spoke to Nixon earlier Thursday. Clay’s office confirmed a Bloomberg report that Nixon told Clay he would be pulling the county police force from the town. And Nixon hinted at the coming change during an appearance in Ferugson ahead of a formal announcement later.

“We're working through a number of operational things to make some shifts,” Nixon said. “I think you all will see a different tone.”

The move comes with the heavily equipped police force coming under growing scrutiny under scrutiny for its tactics, which have included the use of tear gas, stun grenades, and smoke bombs. At least 40 people have been arrested since protests broke out after the shooting death of Michael Brown on Saturday, including two journalists on Wednesday who were temporarily detained.

Brown, 18, was shot dead on Saturday, prompting the racially charged demonstrations in the majority black suburb of St. Louis, where the police force is nearly all white. Authorities say Brown was shot in a struggle for an officer’s gun, but some witnesses have said Brown had his hands in the air. Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told reporters Wednesday that the officer who shot Brown had been struck in the cheek during the incident and taken to hospital.

Nixon issued a statement Wednesday evening urging "patience and calm."

"The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans," he said. "While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern."

President Barack Obama was set to address the situation Thursday afternoon, and at least one lawmaker called for him to take forceful action.

“President Obama should use authority of his office to declare martial law,” Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis said on MSNBC.

Authorities have so far refused to identify the officer involved in the shooting death of Brown, citing the officer's safety. But the decision has fueled anger among the demonstrators. On Wednesday, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch told the St. Louis Post Dispatch that details from the investigation would not emerge for weeks.

President Barack Obama, currently on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, was expected to address the tensions in Ferguson on Thursday afternoon.

-Additional reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J Miller

Audiences Already Voting on Scottish Independence at Arts Festival

Posted: 14 Aug 2014 09:42 AM PDT

The voters of Scotland must wait until the Sept. 18 referendum to decide whether they want to remain citizens of Great Britain or become citizens of a newly independent country. But audiences at a play currently on as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival have been casting their votes on a daily basis. Towards the end of Alan Bissett’s play, The Pure, the Dead and the Brilliant, everybody in the auditorium is asked to hold up his or her program, folded to show a YES for Scottish independence or a NO for remaining in the United Kingdom. After a stunning piece of theater, in which the devil Black Donald in Scottish lore plots to keep Scotland too scared and befuddled to choose to go it alone, audiences reliably deliver a landslide for the YES camp.

In the real world, the polls have been showing a different outcome, with the campaign for staying in the Union maintaining a lead of 46% to 36% according to the latest poll. But a record turnout is expected perhaps as high as 80%; and with 16- and 17-year-olds allowed for the first time to cast a ballot and a swathe of voters genuinely undecided, the referendum promises to be a nail-biter. Nobody can say for sure how an independent Scotland would function or what its wider impact would be, but everybody knows its separation from England, Wales and Northern Ireland would unleash a period of even greater uncertainty. Great Britain might need a new name (Lesser Britain?) and a new flag (the current, and iconic, Union flag incorporates the cross of Scotland’s St. Andrew). Scotland might need a new currency and a new relationship with the European Union. The pro-independence campaign predicts a standalone Scotland would flourish like parts of Scandinavia, an example of virtuous social democracy, a caring state contrasting with its neoliberal, austerity-ridden neighbors to the south. Voices arguing for Union suggest little Scotland would falter outside the U.K.’s protective embrace.

Defense chiefs worry that the Scottish Nationalist Party’s pledge to rid an independent Scotland of nuclear warheads would entail the loss to the remainder of the United Kingdom of its nuclear deterrent, currently carried on submarines based at Faslane on the Scottish coast, because there is no suitable alternative site in England. In some gloomy scenarios, the U.K. stands to lose its permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council because of its diminished size and might. It would certainly lose at least some of its capacity, and willingness, to intervene in foreign conflicts. Separatist movements in other countries would surely take heart from Scotland’s example. And for years to come politicians in the British parliament their numbers reduced by the loss of Scottish colleagues, handing the Conservatives, who have only one Scottish member of the British parliament at present, a huge advantage over Labour, who would to lose 41 MPs at a stroke would wrangle with their empowered opposite numbers in the current Scottish parliament over the divorce settlement. The key points of contention: who owns North Sea oil and gas, and who keeps Scotland’s debt?

The choice facing voters is all about the future, but as Bissett’s play demonstrates, many of the arguments roiling the debate are rooted in a mythical past. In the first scene a sprite from folklore, Bogle (the name gave rise to the term “bogeyman”), picks up a DVD of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and says, emotionally, “that film gets me every time”. The movie’s false version of history of a Scotland subdued by England through treachery and muscle and not, in a more complex reality, entering the Union as partners and often benefiting from it has for years provided fuel to the independence movement. Bissett’s pro-independence play suggests that the Scottish will no longer depend on their tartan mythologies when they are freed, not from England but their own fears.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh, holding its famous concurrent arts festivals, alternative visions for Scotland are being laid out on stages and at podiums far more pungently than politicians dare risk. All Back to Bowie’s, a daily cabaret involving panel debates, comedy and poetry derives its name from David Bowie’s pro-Union message to Scotland: “stay with us”. The organisers pretend to have taken this invitation at face value and set the action in a tent atop Bowie’s Manhattan apartment. Again, sentiment routinely skews towards independence.

The audiences may not reflect Scotland’s voting population, but the appeal of the independence message against the sobersided caution of the pro-Union camp is clear. Come September, life may just imitate art and deliver a verdict that will resonate far beyond Great Britain or whatever the rump nation decides to call itself.

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