Tag Archives: twitter

Sean Hannity fans are destroying Keurig machines for all the wrong reasons.

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Sean Hannity fans are destroying Keurig machines for all the wrong reasons.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit on Friday to get the agency to say how it plans to handle Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. Pruitt is now in charge of enforcing rules that he tried to unravel with numerous lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination,” Becerra said in a statement.

In April, Becerra filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request for documents tied to Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest and efforts to follow federal ethics laws. Generally, agencies must respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, though they have some wiggle room. But four months later, the EPA has yet to turn over anything.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency had twice told Becerra’s office they were working on assembling the documents. She said the lawsuit was “draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment.”

The suit from the Golden State is just part of the legal backlash Pruitt’s staring down: He’s already been sued over ozone regulations and the suspension of methane restrictions for new oil and gas wells.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

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Need a break from political news? Hey, look, the ocean!

We’ve seen big declines in wild bee populations. That’s not just bad for the fuzzy little bees; it could drive up prices for almonds, blueberries, and other pollinator-dependent treats.

The challenge is knowing what would help them. Do we focus on preserving habitat and flowers? Or should we focus on certain pesticides? Is climate change behind this, too? It’s hard to say because bees are hard to study. It’s relatively easy to count long-legged pronghorns or wide-winged condors compared to counting the gnat-sized Perdita minima, the world’s tiniest bee.

That’s why a research team at the University of Missouri has been putting little microphones in alpine meadows. When those mics record buzzing, the team’s software analyzes the noise to tell scientists the number and species of bees visiting. They just published a paper, showing that their methods work.

This breakthrough could allow regular folks to collect solid scientific data from the safety of their porch. Farmers could “monitor pollination of their orchards and vegetable crops and head off pollination deficits,” said Candace Galen, a biological science professor who led the university’s research team, in a news release.

Interested? The group is working on an app that would let you collect bee data with your smartphone.

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Need a break from political news? Hey, look, the ocean!

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

Mother Jones

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was seen taking refuge on the roof of his office building in Vista, California, Tuesday, taking photos of angry constituents who had gathered below to protest the congressman’s voting record. The incident comes before a much-anticipated town hall meeting this Saturday at San Juan Hills High School, where the nine-term congressman is expected to face a hostile crowd because of his support for various Trump administration policies, including the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Democrat Mike Levin, an environmental lawyer who recently announced his bid to challenge Issa in 2018, shared an image of the congressman appearing to avoid demonstrators on social media, where it was roundly mocked.

Others saw his retreating to a rooftop as reminiscent of Michael Scott, Steve Carrell’s character in The Office who memorably took to the roof in the episode titled “Safety Training.”

Issa, on the other hand, described his trip to the roof a bit differently. Shortly after the criticism, he took to Twitter to offer this narrative. We recommend zooming in to take a closer look at the signs:

For more on Levin and the fight to defeat Issa, the richest man in Congress, head to our profile here.

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Darrell Issa Appears to Flee to Building Roof to Avoid Protesters

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Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel

Mother Jones

Remember the top secret intel that President Trump shared with the Russians in the Oval Office? We all pretty much know that it came from Israel, but for some reason Trump decided to confirm this today:

As many people have pointed out, this was just a photo op. Trump didn’t have to say anything. But he’s Trump, so he had to have the last word. It continues to be remarkable how easy it is to bait the guy.

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Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel

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Donald Trump Is Getting Scared About Russia

Mother Jones

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Oh man, this cracks me up. This whole Russia thing is really getting inside President Trump’s OODA loop. After today’s congressional hearing, he was hellbent on making sure everyone knew that James Clapper had said there was “no evidence” of collusion between Trump and Russia. Clapper didn’t quite say that, actually, but Trump didn’t care. He ordered his staff to change his Twitter picture pronto. So they did. Now it looks like this:

You might be able to see the whole message on a different monitor, or if you fiddle around with the width of your browser window. But probably not. What a bunch of doofuses.


Donald Trump Is Getting Scared About Russia

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

Mother Jones

Someone asked me on Twitter if health care premiums had spiked after Obamacare went into effect. That turns out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. There’s loads of data on premiums in the employer market, where premium growth has slowed down slightly post-Obamacare, but not much in the individual market, which is where Obamacare has its biggest impact. However, a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution rounded up the best evidence for pre-Obamacare premiums and compared it to premiums in 2014-17, when Obamacare was in effect. Here it is:

Premiums dropped in 2014, and are still lower than the trendline from 2009-13. So no, premiums didn’t spike under Obamacare.

Now, there are lots of caveats here. The pre-Obamacare estimates are tricky to get a firm handle on. What’s more, the Obamacare premiums are for the baseline coverage (second-lowest silver plan), while average pre-Obamacare policies might have been more generous in some ways (for example, deductibles and copays).

However, most of the pre/post differences suggest that Obamacare policies are better than the old ones. The old plans had an actuarial value of only 60 percent, while Obamacare silver plans have an actuarial value of 70 percent. The old plans were also limited to very healthy individuals. Obamacare plans are open to everyone. Finally, Obamacare plans mandate a set of essential benefits and place limits on out-of-pocket costs. These and other things suggest that premiums should have gone up under Obamacare.

But even with all these improvements, premiums still went down, and they haven’t caught up yet. Bottom line: Average premiums in the individual market went down after Obamacare took effect, and they’re still lower than they would have been without Obamacare.

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Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare

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If You’re Reading About "The Circle" on Facebook, It’s Already Too Late

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>
Tomi Um

The Circle, published in 2013 by the prolific novelist (and McSweeney‘s founder) Dave Eggers, is a dire prophecy for our wireless world. Protagonist Mae, fresh from college, goes to work for the eponymous social network, a hyperdriven mashup of Facebook and Google that won’t stop until it knows everything about everything—and everyone. The story is an unsettling glimpse of a generation trained, like Pavlovian Instagrammers, to crave the rush of a post going viral, and it leaves you asking: How much privacy should we hand over to Silicon Valley? How much knowledge is too much? The movie adaptation, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, was directed and co-written (with Eggers) by James Ponsoldt—a deft choice given The End of the Tour, his brilliant 2015 film about David Foster Wallace. As an author with a rosier view of technology, I jumped at the chance to chat with Eggers and Ponsoldt about their dystopian vision.

Mother Jones: How did the film project come together?

James Ponsoldt: I’ve been a fan of Dave’s writing since A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I loved The Circle and I was terrified by it. My wife and I were on the verge of having our first child, and I recognized that we were both able to have childhoods that were undocumented, for the most part, and I didn’t know if my son would have that luxury. I felt really sad.

MJ: And what made James the right person for the job?

Dave Eggers: The book is about a young woman, and James has always done an amazing job with young actors and actresses. He’s not much older than Mae and has grown up swimming in the same waters she’s in, more so than me—so much of what I was doing was extrapolating what would come, as opposed to describing what is. That combination of expertise in technology and then a deeply humanistic point of view made him seem like a perfect fit.

MJ: Dave, when did you start thinking about the implications of how social media is altering our lives?

DE: For me, it didn’t have much to do with social media, actually.

MJ: Oh!

DE: You always write one book and people read a different one. Laughs. I’ve been in San Francisco since 1992. I saw the Bay Area tech world reinvent itself many times, but it wasn’t until maybe 2007, 2008, 2009 when the concentration of wealth and power started to concern me. Also the surveillance aspect—the inability, increasingly, for us to opt out of being watched. I feel pretty strongly that a citizen under surveillance is not free. We have passively acquiesced to this, to the point where it’s almost a foregone conclusion. I think that was the impetus.

MJ: I’m not even sure we acquiesced so much as happily participated. In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes that we were worried about Orwell’s version of surveillance, but it was Aldous Huxley’s that won out because it’s our own desires that have enslaved us. James, tell me about your evolving relationship with technology.

JP: It’s complicated. I was raised by ex-hippies, but I grew up worshipping a television set. I am skeptical of a lot of things, but I was on Myspace and Friendster, and I have a fascination with the new. My wife and I met on Facebook! We were on opposite sides of America, and a mutual love of Vic Chesnutt, a musician from Athens, Georgia, began a conversation. So I certainly can see everything it has to offer—and what we give up in that exchange.

DE: I always say to the college kids I talk to that I have no objection to people posting pictures and sharing stories online. That’s the beauty of the internet. But I try to talk to them about who owns that data and what are they consenting to, and that’s a conversation people don’t want to get into. A funny thing happened on the way to utopia: We’ve turned into this surveillance society and become a race of spies, where we track our kids and we track our spouses and we track our friends. I think very soon there will be an obsolescence of trust, because it’s much easier to access a person’s location than it is to ask—or to trust. When I ask 50 college kids who is conflicted about their technology use, 49 hands go up.

MJ: One of the things that struck me reading The Circle was the nagging burden that the need to participate in the public sphere places on Mae.

DE: Yeah, for 12 years I had a high school class called the Best American Nonrequired Reading. Not all the kids had smartphones, but there was a sense of near-constant social obligation, with fairly high costs for being absent for an hour. In the absence of the “like” there is the implicit “don’t like,” and that becomes a source of angst and want. I saw it happen to friends in their 40s who would say those very sad words—”Like me on Facebook”—to me. I thought, “Something really radical has changed when these dignified, educated people are saying those four sad words.” There are so many phenomenal things about these platforms, and the unintended consequences are either very tragic or very funny. I was trying to balance those two. Twitter has been instrumental in getting the word out about human rights issues or protests, and then you also have it as this horrific platform—a would-be despot in Trump uses it to spout falsities to 26 million people. So you’re giving a very dangerous megaphone to a cretin.

MJ: I’m curious how Silicon Valley folks responded to your book.

DE: I’d say half the people I’ve known here over the last 25 years are in tech, or have been. They found it terrifying in all the right ways.

MJ: What were the challenges in turning this book into a movie?

DE: When you adapt a book, you really have to cut it to the essence. James did an amazing job of finding that essential through-story and then picking and choosing parts to buttress that—because books are just big, baggy monsters full of speculation and a thousand notions. A film is a much more poetic medium.

MJ: James?

JP: For me it was just trying to bottle the way Dave’s book made me feel. I found it insanely funny, darkly funny. I see myself deeply in the protagonist—her occasional pettiness and anxiety and her desire to not want to die anonymous. She’s really complicated and I wanted to do justice to that.

MJ: Will the ending be as bleak as the one in the book?

DE: Laughs. It does not turn the ending around and make it happy—but it’s different. Adaptations are a corollary, but without being dutiful.

MJ: So are we doomed to a future in which corporations increasingly manipulate our behavior and control how we express ourselves?

DE: Well, the bigger and stronger monopolies get, the harder they are to break. That said, none of these companies have been around for very long. James mentioned Friendster and Myspace—it always makes me laugh hearing those words—and then AOL, AltaVista, and on and on. If we look at the history…

JP: Dave’s right. And then, there’s really not a precedent for an industry whose value system is to help facilitate dialogue about how to think, how to find information and share it. Most of my friends in tech are progressive and idealistic, but they’re also making a lot of money. And it’s hard to stop making a lot of money. Companies don’t break themselves up voluntarily.

DE: You also have to look at companies like Facebook and LinkedIn. Their stock price only rises with increased usage and increased frequency of usage. So that creates a very unnatural and I think tyrannical pursuit of what I called in the book “completion.” Which is, these companies are infinitely more valuable the more they can study a complete group of users, without exception. I feel like that is going to be the next dangerous spot we find ourselves in—what companies will do to get all of this demographic, all of that region, all of this occupation, and you see them coming at you 19 different ways. At a certain point growth will stop, and that’s what’s curious. At 2 billion Facebook users, will it be allowed to stop? One of the themes in the movie is making voting mandatory through The Circle, which is very plausible under a privatization scenario. Politicians say, “Well, you have to vote, and you have to vote through The Circle, so you have to have a Circle account.” Not that Trump wants everyone to vote, but you get the idea.

MJ: James, for the past year or so you’ve used Twitter, somewhat presciently, as a platform to tell outrageous lies and crazy stories. Will you be tweeting about The Circle?

JP: Laughs. In some probably indirect way, sure. I’m living aspects of the movie, I guess.

MJ: What about you, Dave? Any chance we’ll ever see you on Twitter?

DE: Awkward silence, then laughter. I don’t think so. It’s really an old-dog-new-tricks kind of thing for me. McSweeney’s tweets. They can do it. I just don’t—no, no plans to.


If You’re Reading About "The Circle" on Facebook, It’s Already Too Late

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Sean Spicer: Hitler "Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons"

Mother Jones

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White House press secretary Sean Spicer attempted to compare Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad to Adolf Hitler on Tuesday, arguing—incorrectly—that unlike Assad, Hitler never used chemical weapons during World War II. When a reporter gave Spicer a chance to clarify his remarks, Spicer followed up with an explanation that was arguably even more problematic.

“You had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said in response to a question about Russia’s ongoing support for the Assad regime.

When a reporter asked Spicer what he meant by this comment, Spicer explained that Hitler “was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing.” Apparently referring to Nazi death camps, Spicer acknowledged that Hitler “brought them into the Holocaust Center, I understand that.”

Reporters and pundits on Twitter quickly pointed out that Hitler justified the Holocaust in part by claiming that German Jews were not really Germans.

Nearly 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust from systemic murder that included the use of gas and shooting, as well as starvation and disease. This included between 160,000 to 180,000 German Jews. The Third Reich also targeted non-Jewish Germans it deemed “unworthy of life,” including people with mental and physical disabilities. These were among the first victim’s of Hitler’s use of poison gas beginning in 1939.

On MSNBC, the chyron fact-checking Spicer’s comments was particularly stunning.

After his briefing, Spicer sent out a second clarification, followed by a third:

And then a fourth:


Sean Spicer: Hitler "Didn’t Even Sink to Using Chemical Weapons"

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Daughter Slams Pepsi Protest Ad in One Tweet

Mother Jones

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Bernice King, the daughter of legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., has added her voice to the criticism sparked by Pepsi’s controversial protest ad.

The commercial, which was released Tuesday as a two-and-a-half minute video, depicted reality TV star and model Kendall Jenner walking through a demonstration. As police stare down the protesters, Jenner approaches one of the officers to hand him a Pepsi. The gesture appears to defuse tensions, which prompts cheers from the protesters.

The ad quickly became the target of derision, with many calling it “tone-deaf.” Critics also argued Pepsi was co-opting the imagery of recent minority-led protest movements for profit. On Twitter, people pointed out that the scene of Jenner handing a Pepsi to an officer closely resembled a widely-shared photo of a Black Lives Matter protester being arrested during a 2016 protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On Wednesday, King took to Twitter to share her thoughts about the controversy, posting a photo of her father being pushed back by police officers during a protest. In a particularly cringeworthy bit of timing, the Pepsi ad’s Tuesday release came on the same day of the 49th anniversary of King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee:

In a statement Wednesday, Pepsi announced the ad would be pulled immediately.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global a message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize…We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s Daughter Slams Pepsi Protest Ad in One Tweet

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