In case you needed any more proof of how essential vitamin D is to good health, researchers have warned that placebo-controlled trials that involve limiting some people’s intake of the all-star nutrient could be considered unethical.
This presents a serious quandary for researchers. Demonstrating the efficacy of vitamin D in studies is essential for boosting awareness and acceptance of its treatment effects, but the very design of many studies could cause some patients to miss out on the vitamins they need.
Writing in the journal Nutrients, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences Integrative Medicine Program Director Dr. Leigh Frame outlined just what could happen if a person known to be deficient in vitamin D was denied it. The potential problems include poor short-term or long-term bone health and a higher risk of chronic disease, cancer, autoimmunity, infection and mental illness.
The researchers involved in the review cited two types of trial design as having potentially conflicting objectives. The first is studies with an active control arm with no placebo group. In this case, they point out that the benefit of such a study could be dampened if the absence of a placebo causes them to get non-significant results. Having an active control could limit the possibility of detecting meaningful effects from the supplement.
In the case of placebo trials, valuable information is often gleaned but the ethical questions could be a deal-breaker. Because vitamin D deficiency is a “known harm” and vitamin D has known benefits, they believe that withholding adequate supplementation from some people in the study could cause them an undue health risk. They believe the potential benefits that can be gained by determining an ideal dose of vitamin D would not necessarily outweigh the harm that could be caused to those who are deprived of supplementation.
They’ve identified two possible solutions to these problems. First, they suggest designing trials that have placebo groups but without supplement restrictions. For example, a study called the Vitamin D and Omega 3 Trial allowed participants to take up to 400 IU per day, which is the recommended daily allowance. The researchers in that study then monitored the vitamin D levels of people in both groups; the control group was effective despite having slightly higher background levels of vitamin D.
Another solution they put forth entails having a placebo group but then giving them a rescue repletion program at the close of the study. Those in the placebo group might have a vitamin D deficiency during the study, but they’d be given doses afterward that could reduce their risk of harm. They say this would not only protect the methodology but would also stay in line with the ethical placebo group guidelines set out by the 2001 Declaration of Helsinki.
Vitamin D’s list of benefits continues to grow
Vitamin D continues to be the subject of trials and studies as more and more information comes to light regarding what a powerful tool it is for optimum health. For example, one recent study found that vitamin D has the potential to cut a person’s risk of cancer by 20 percent or even more.
In addition, it plays a vital role in bone health, helping your body absorb much-needed minerals like phosphorus and calcium and reducing your risk of fractures. It also helps reduce your risk of both types of diabetes, and those with sufficient vitamin D intake also have a lower risk of heart disease.
Daily exposure to natural sunlight without sunscreen is the best way to boost your vitamin D levels, but supplementation is a good route when this isn’t possible. Follow more news on Vitamin D at VitaminD.news.
Sources for this article include:
March 1st, 2018
Via: Defense News:
Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and military robotics have some concerned that the development of Terminator-like killer robots will be humankindâ€™s downfall. But that doesnâ€™t seem to worry Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, who addressed the impact of technology on democracy at the Feb. 16-18 Munich Security Conference.
â€œEveryone immediately then wants to talk about all the movie-inspired death scenarios, and I can confidently predict to you that they are one to two decades away. So letâ€™s worry about them, but letâ€™s worry about them in a while,â€œ Schmidt said.
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Source Article from http://www.cryptogon.com/?p=52426
Anonymous is the most famous ‘hacktivist’ group in the world. The informal nature of the group makes its mechanics difficult to define. Subsequently, without a formal organizational hierarchy, it’s difficult to explain Anonymous to the general public and the media. In this article, I’ll explain the history of the group, and offer some clarity on what’s misunderstood about them.
‘Hacktivist’ is a portmanteau of ‘hacker’ and ‘activist’. When people have technical skills, have access to the Internet, and understand how network infrastructure and servers work, it can be tempting to put that knowledge into having some effect on the world. The ‘activist’ part of ‘hacktivist’ means that they don’t do their hacking and cracking without a cause.
The various people behind Anonymous worldwide are united in a belief that corporations and organizations they consider to be corrupt should be attacked. If you’re an administrator for a network that has little reason to be a target for social activists, your network and servers are unlikely to become a target for Anonymous.
If for some reason you believe your network might become a target, I recommend testing it for handling DDoS attacks, as that’s the most common method Anonymous uses to bring down web servers.
Not all of Anonymous’ activities involve attacking networks or websites. Anonymous has also been active in initiating public protests. But the web and IRC channels are the lifeblood of the group. If it weren’t for the Internet, Anonymous would’ve never existed.
Source Article from https://worldtruth.tv/anonymous-this-shocking-footage-should-worry-you/
Zero waste expert Lindsay Miles tells people to start wherever they can, that actions are like ripples in the fight against plastic packaging.
Last December, a woman named Lindsay Miles gave a TedX talk in Perth, Australia. Miles is the founder of a blog called ‘Treading My Own Path: Steps Toward a Sustainable Lifestyle,’ and she spoke about her transition to zero waste living.
What I liked about Miles’ talk is how she starts out describing the way she used to live — and it sounds remarkably how many other green-minded people live. She shopped occasionally at the farmers’ market, took reusable bags to the grocery store, bought ‘green’ products for her home, was a devoted recycler. She describes her mindset at that time in the present tense:
“I marvel at how ridiculously over-packaged everything is in the supermarket, as I pile those same over-packaged things into my trolley. I wonder, Why doesn’t somebody do something about that? But of course, I recycle. I recycle everything. My recycling bin is always full. I feel a little bit guilty about all that waste, but my guilt just seems to melt away as soon as my recycling bin is collected.”
Then Miles came across the Plastic-Free July challenge, which we’ve covered here on TreeHugger. It is a month-long challenge to avoid all single-use plastics. For Miles, this was a revelation. Never before had she realized how much plastic there was in her home, particularly the kitchen and bathroom.
After using up the items in her home, Miles began replacing them with alternatives packaged in glass and metal. These materials are much heavier than plastic, making the quantity of superfluous packaging more noticeable than ever.
Eventually, this led to her embarking on a zero-waste journey — an ongoing quest to do away with “single-use everything” and packaging altogether. She now chooses items that are built to last, that can be reused and repaired. She has no trash bin in her home and generates minimal recycling. She points out in the talk that there’s a reason why “recycle” comes at the end of the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” rhyme that every child is taught:
“I’d always thought responsibility ends with recycling, but it’s a terrible place to stop.”
Zero waste living has improved Miles’ life. She eats more real food, supports local independent businesses, has learned new skills and found ways to embrace creativity. She has connected with a community of likeminded people. Most importantly, she has realized that we can all do something about this problem. We don’t have to wait around for “somebody to do something about it” because we all are somebody.
She encourages people not to get too hung up on perfection, but to do what they can. Realize that actions are ripples that change an important story. For too long we’ve believed companies telling us that “convenience” has to be disposable, but that’s not true.
Every time we shop, we can decide to perpetuate the problem or to be a part of the solution. Miles’ talk is inspiring, showing that ordinary individuals can really make a difference.
Visit Treading My Own Path for further ideas on how to go about reducing household waste. Watch the TEDx talk:
While turbulent during the best of times, gigantic waves of change are now sweeping across the Middle East. The magnitude is such that the impact on the global price of oil, as well as world markets, is likely to be enormous.
A dramatic geo-political realignment by Saudi Arabia is in full swing this month. It’s upending many decades of established strategic relationships among the world’s superpowers and, in particular, is throwing the Middle East into turmoil.
So much is currently in flux, especially in Saudi Arabia, that nearly anything can happen next. Which is precisely why this volatile situation should command our focused attention at this time.
The main elements currently in play are these:
- A sudden and intense purging of powerful Saudi insiders (arrests, deaths, & asset seizures)
- Huge changes in domestic policy and strategy
- A shift away from the US in all respects (politically, financially and militarily)
- Deepening ties to China
- A surprising turn towards Russia (economically and militarily)
- Increasing cooperation and alignment with Israel (the enemy of my enemy is my friend?)
Taken together, this is tectonic change happening at blazing speed.
That it’s receiving too little attention in the US press given the implications, is a tip off as to just how big a deal this is — as we’re all familiar by now with how the greater the actual relevance and importance of a development, the less press coverage it receives. This is not a direct conspiracy; it’s just what happens when your press becomes an organ of the state and other powerful interests. Like a dog trained with daily rewards and punishments, after a while the press needs no further instruction on the house rules.
It does emphasize, however, that to be accurately informed about what’s going on, we have to do our own homework. Here’s a short primer to help get you started.
A Quick Primer
Unless you study it intensively, Saudi politics are difficult to follow because they are rooted in the drama of a very large and dysfunctional family battling over its immense wealth. If you think your own family is nuts, multiply the crazy factor by 1,000, sprinkle in a willingness to kill any family members who get in your way, and you’ll have the right perspective for grasping how Saudi ‘politics’ operate.
The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (hereafter referred to as “KSA”) and consists of some 15,000 members. The majority of the power and wealth is concentrated in the hands of roughly 2,000 individuals. 4,000 male princes are in the mix, plus a larger number of involved females — all trying to either hang on to or climb up a constantly-shifting mountain of power.
Here’s a handy chart to explain the lineage of power in KSA over the decades:
We’ll get to the current ruler, King Salman, and his powerful son, Mohammed Bin Salman (age 32), shortly. Before we do, though, let’s talk about the most seminal moment in recent Saudi history: the key oil-for-money-and-protection deal struck between the Nixon administration and King Faisal back in the early 1970’s.
This pivotal agreement allowed KSA to secretly recycle its surplus petrodollars back into US Treasuries while receiving US military protection in exchange. The secret was kept for 41 years, only recently revealed in 2016 due to a Bloomberg FOIA request:
The basic framework was strikingly simple. The U.S. would buy oil from Saudi Arabia and provide the kingdom military aid and equipment. In return, the Saudis would plow billions of their petrodollar revenue back into Treasuries and finance America’s spending.
It took several discreet follow-up meetings to iron out all the details, Parsky said. But at the end of months of negotiations, there remained one small, yet crucial, catch: King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud demanded the country’s Treasury purchases stay “strictly secret,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by Bloomberg from the National Archives database.
“Buying bonds and all that was a strategy to recycle petrodollars back into the U.S.,” said David Ottaway, a Middle East fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington. But politically, “it’s always been an ambiguous, constrained relationship.”
The essence of this deal is pretty simple. KSA wanted to be able to sell its oil to its then largest buyer, the USA, while also having a safe place to park the funds, plus receive military protection to boot. But it didn’t want anybody else, especially its Arab neighbors, to know that it was partnering so intimately with the US who, in turn, would be supporting Israel. That would have been politically incendiary in the Middle East region, coming as it did right on the heels of the Yom Kipper War (1973).
As for the US, it got the oil it wanted and – double bonus time here – got KSA to recycle the very same dollars used to buy that oil back into Treasuries and contracts for US military equipment and training.
Note that this is yet another secret world-shaping deal successfully kept out of the media for over four decades. Yes Virginia, conspiracies do happen. Secrets can be (and are routinely) kept by hundreds, even thousands, of people over long stretches of time.
Since that key deal was struck back in the early 1970s, the KSA has remained a steadfast supporter of the US and vice versa. In return, the US has never said anything substantive about KSA’s alleged involvement in 9/11 or its grotesque human and women’s rights violations. Not a peep.
Then Things Started To Break Down
In 2015, King Salman came to power. Things began to change pretty quickly, especially once he elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to a position of greater power.
Among MBS’s first acts was to directly involve KSA into the Yemen civil war, with both troops on the ground and aerial bombings. That war has killed thousands of civilians while creating a humanitarian crisis that includes the largest modern-day outbreak of cholera, which is decimating highly populated areas. The conflct, which is considered a ‘proxy war’ because Iran is backing the Houthi rebels while KSA is backing the Yemeni government, continues to this day.
Then in 2016, KSA threatened to dump its $750 billion in (stated) US assets in response to a bill in Congress that would have released sensitive information implicating Saudi Arabia’s involvement in 9/11. Then-president Obama had to fly over there to smooth things out. It seems the job he did was insufficient; because KSA-US relations unraveled at an accelerating pace afterwards. Mission NOT accomplished, it would seem.
In 2017, KSA accused Qatar of nefarious acts and made such extraordinary demands that an outbreak of war nearly broke out over the dispute. The Qatari leadership later accused KSA of fomenting ‘regime change’, souring the situation further. Again, Iran backed the Qatar government, which turned this conflict into another proxy battle between the two main regional Arab superpowers.
In parallel with all this, KSA was also supporting the mercenaries (aka “rebels” in western press) who were seeking to overthrow Assad in Syria — yet another proxy war between KSA and Iran. It’s been an open secret that, during this conflict, KSA has been providing support to some seriously bad terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other supposed enemies of the US/NATO. (Again, the US has never said ‘boo’ about that, proving that US rhetoric against “terrorists” is a fickle construct of political convenience, not a moral matter.)
Once Russia entered the war on the side of Syria’s legitimate government, the US and KSA (and Israel) lost their momentum. Their dreams of toppling Assad and turning Syria into another failed petro-state like they did with Iraq and Libya are not likely to pan out as hoped.
But rather than retreat to lick their wounds, KSA’s King Salman and his son are proving to be a lot nimbler than their predecessors.
Rather than continue a losing battle in Syria, they’ve instead turned their energies and attention to dramatically reshaping KSA’s internal power structures:
Saudi Arabia’s Saturday Night Massacre
For nearly a century, Saudi Arabia has been ruled by the elders of a royal family that now finds itself effectively controlled by a 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman. He helms the Defense Ministry, he has extravagant plans for economic development, and last week arranged for the arrest of some of the most powerful ministers and princes in the country.
A day before the arrests were announced, Houthi tribesmen in Yemen but allied with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, fired a ballistic missile at Riyadh.
The Saudis claim the missile came from Iran and that its firing might be considered “an act of war.”
Saudi Arabia was created between the two world wars under British guidance. In the 1920s, a tribe known as the Sauds defeated the Hashemites, effectively annexing the exterior parts of Saudi Arabia they did not yet control. The United Kingdom recognized the Sauds’ claim shortly thereafter. But since then, the Saudi tribe has been torn by ambition, resentment and intrigue. The Saudi royal family has more in common with the Corleones than with a Norman Rockwell painting.
The direct attack was undoubtedly met with threats of a coup. Whether one was actually planned didn’t matter. Mohammed Bin Salman had to assume these threats were credible since so many interests were under attack. So he struck first, arresting princes and ex-minsters who constituted the Saudi elite. It was a dangerous gamble. A powerful opposition still exists, but he had no choice but to act. He could either strike as he did last Saturday night, or allow his enemies to choose the time and place of that attack. Nothing is secure yet, but with this strike, there is a chance he might have bought time. Any Saudi who would take on princes and clerics is obviously desperate, but he may well break the hold of the financial and religious elite.
This 32 year-old prince, Mohammed bin Salman has struck first and deep, completely upending the internal power dynamics of Saudi Arabia.
He’s taken on the political, financial and religious elites head on. For example, pushing through the decision to allow women to drive; a provocative move designed to send a clear message to the clerics who might oppose him. That message is: “I’m not fooling around here.”
This is a classic example of how one goes about purging the opposition when either taking over a government after a coup, or implementing a big new strategy at a major corporation. You have to remove any possible opponents and then install your own loyalists. According the Rules for Rulers, you do this by diverting a portion of the flow of funds to your new backers while diminishing, imprisoning or killing all potential enemies.
So far, Mohammed bin Salman’s action plan is par for the course. No surprises.
The above article from Stratfor (well worth reading in its entirety) continues with these interesting insights:
The Iranians have been doing well since the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. They have become the dominant political force in Iraq. Their support for the Bashar Assad regime in Syria may not have been enough to save him, but Iran was on what appears to be the winning side in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has been hurt by its participation in the war but is reviving, carrying Iranian influence in Lebanon at a time when Lebanon is in crisis after the resignation of its prime minister last week.
The Saudis, on the other hand, aren’t doing as well. The Saudi-built anti-Houthi coalition in Yemen has failed to break the Houthi-led opposition. And Iran has openly entered into an alliance with Qatar against the wishes of the Saudis and their ally, the United Arab Emirates.
Iran seems to sense the possibility of achieving a dream: destabilizing Saudi Arabia, ending its ability to support anti-Iranian forces, and breaking the power of the Sunni Wahhabis. Iran must look at the arrests in Saudi Arabia as a very bad move. And they may be. Mohammad bin Salman has backed the fundamentalists and the financial elite against the wall.
They are desperate, and now it is their turn to roll the dice. If they fall short, it could result in a civil war in Saudi Arabia. If Iran can hit Riyadh with missiles, the crown prince’s opponents could argue that the young prince is so busy with his plans that he isn’t paying attention to the real threat. For the Iranians, the best outcome is to have no one come out on top.
This would reconfigure the geopolitics of the Middle East, and since the U.S. is deeply involved there, it has decisions to make.
So given Yemen, Syria, and its recent domestic purges, Saudi Arabia is in turmoil. It’s in a far weaker position than it was a short while ago.
This leaves the US in a far weaker regional position, too, at precisely the time when China and Russia are increasing their own presence (which we’ll get to next).
But first we have to discuss what might happen if a civil war were to engulf Saudi Arabia. The price of oil would undoubtedly spike. In turn, that would cripple the weaker countries, companies and households around the world that simply cannot afford a higher oil price. And there’s a lot of them.
Financial markets would destabilize as long-suppressed volatility would explode higher, creating horrific losses across the board. That very few investors are mentally or financially prepared for such carnage is a massive understatement.
So..if you were Saudi Arabia, in need of helpful allies after being bogged down in an unwinnable war in Yemen, just defeated in a proxy war in Syria, and your longtime ‘ally’, the US, is busy pumping as much of its own oil as it can, what would you do?
Pivot To China
Given its situation, is it really any surprise that King Salman and his son have decided to pivot to China? In need of a new partner that would align better with their current and future interests, China is the obvious first choice.
So in March 2017, only a very short while after Obama’s failed visit, a large and well-prepared KSA entourage accompanied King Salman to Beijing and inked tens of billions in new business deals:
China, Saudi Arabia eye $65 billion in deals as king visits
Mar 16, 2017
BEIJING (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman oversaw the signing of deals worth as much as $65 billion on the first day of a visit to Beijing on Thursday, as the world’s largest oil exporter looks to cement ties with the world’s second-largest economy.
The deals included a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between giant state oil firm Saudi Aramco and China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco), to look into building refining and chemical plants in China.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) and Sinopec, which already jointly run a chemical complex in Tinajin, also agreed to develop petrochemical projects in both China and Saudi Arabia.
Salman told Xi he hoped China could play an even greater role in Middle East affairs, the ministry added.
Deputy Chinese Foreign Minister Zhang Ming said the memorandums of understanding and letters of intent were potentially worth about $65 billion, involving everything from energy to space.
This was a very big deal in terms of Middle East geopolitics. It shook up many decades of established power, resulting in a shift away from dependence on America.
The Saudis arrived in China with such a huge crowd in tow that a reported 150 cooks had been brought along to just to feed everyone in the Saudi visitation party.
The resulting deals struck involved everything from energy to infrastructure to information technology to space. And this was just on the first visit. Quite often a brand new trade delegation event involves posturing and bluffing and feeling each other out; not deals being struck. So it’s clear that before the visit, well before, lots and lots of deals were being negotiated and terms agreed to so that the thick MOU files were ready to sign during the actual visit.
The scope and size of these business deals are eye catching, but the real clincher is King Salman’s public statement expressing hope China will play “an even greater role in Middle East affairs.”
That, right there, is the sound of the geopolitical axis-tilting. That public statement tells us everything we need to know about the sort of change the Salman dynasty intends to pursue.
So it should have surprised no one to hear that, in August this year, another $70 billion of new deals were announced between China and KSA. The fanfare extolled that Saudi-Sino relations had entered a new era, with “the agreements covering investment, trade, energy, postal service, communications, and media.”
This is a very rapid pace for such large deals. If KSA and China were dating, they’d be talking about moving in together already. They’re clearly at the selecting furniture and carpet samples stage.
As for the US? It seems KSA isn’t even returning its calls or texts at this point.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet…
All of the above merely describes how we arrived at where things stand today.
But as mentioned, the power grab underway in KSA by Mohammed bin Salman is unfolding in real-time.Developments are happening hourly — while writing this, the very high-profile Prince Bandar bin Sultan (recent head of Saudi Intelligence and former longtime ambassador to the US) has been arrested.
The trajectory of events is headed in a direction that may well end the arrangement that has served as the axis around which geopolitics has spun for the past 40 years. The Saudis want new partners, and are courting China hard.
China, for reasons we discuss in Part 2 of this report, has an existential need to supplant America as Saudi Arabia’s most vital oil customer.
And both Saudi Arabia and China are inking an increasing number of strategic oil deals with Russia. Why? We get into that in Part 2, too — but suffice it to say, in the fast-shifting world of KSA foreign policy, it’s China and Russia ‘in’, US ‘out’.
Maybe not all the way out, but the US clearly has lost a lot of ground with KSA over the past few years. My analysis is that by funding an insane amount of shale oil development, at a loss, and at any cost (such as to our biggest Mideast ally) the US has time and again displayed that our ‘friendship’ does not run very deep. In a world where loyalty counts, the US has proved a disloyal partner. Can China position itself to be perceived of as a better mate? When it comes to business, I believe the answer is ‘yes.’
In Part 2: The Oil Threat we couple these developments with China and Russia’s recent efforts to drop the dollar from trade, especially when purchasing oil, and clearly see the unfolding of the biggest new driver of the world’s financial, monetary and geopolitical arrangements in 50 years.
We also explain why, unless something very dramatically changes in either the supply or demand equation for oil, and soon, we can now put a timeline in place for when the great unraveling begins. Somewhere between the second half of 2018 and the end of 2019 oil will dramatically increase in price and that will shake the foundations of the global mountain of debt and its related underfunded liabilities. Think 9.0 on the financial Richter scale.
Let me be blunt – you have to have your preparations done before this happens. You really, really want to be a year early on this (at least). When it starts happening, the breakdown will progress faster than you can react.
Source Article from http://thefreethoughtproject.com/saudi-arabia-shift-geopolitical/
In a furious tweetstorm this weekend, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer warned interfering desperate politicians and triggered letfists that the fake news problem is more complicated and dangerous to solve than the public thinks.
As a reminder, we noted that Alex Stamos was seemingly pressured into ‘finding’ Russian evidence after Senator Mark Warner paid the social media company a visit –
A few weeks after the French election, Warner flew out to California to visit Facebook in person. It was an opportunity for the senator to press Stamos directly on whether the Russians had used the company’s tools to disseminate anti-Clinton ads to key districts.
Officials said Stamos underlined to Warner the magnitude of the challenge Facebook faced policing political content that looked legitimate.
Stamos told Warner that Facebook had found no accounts that used advertising but agreed with the senator that some probably existed. The difficulty for Facebook was finding them.
For months, a team of engineers at Facebook had been searching through accounts, looking for signs that they were set up by operatives working on behalf of the Kremlin. The task was immense.
Warner’s visit spurred the company to make some changes in how it conducted its internal investigation. Instead of searching through impossibly large batches of data, Facebook decided to focus on a subset of political ads.
Technicians then searched for “indicators” that would link those ads to Russia. To narrow down the search further, Facebook zeroed in on a Russian entity known as the Internet Research Agency, which had been publicly identified as a troll farm.
“They worked backwards,” a U.S. official said of the process at Facebook.
The breakthrough moment came just days after a Facebook spokesman on July 20 told CNN that “we have seen no evidence that Russian actors bought ads on Facebook in connection with the election.”
And the rest is history as 3000 “Russian Ads” were suddenly discovered to enable Warner to keep the narrative alive – and more crucially demand social media companies crackdown on ‘fake news’, on politically-sponsored and divisive ads, and on anything they decide is not really fitting their identity-politics-based narratives.
However, given this weekend’s tweetstorm by Stamos, we suspect he has finally snapped and been forced to shove some common sense down the throats of the vengeful politicians who see no unintended consequences in their demands for big-brother-esque newspeak.
“It’s very difficult to spot fake news and propaganda using just computer programs,” Stamos said in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday.
“Nobody of substance at the big companies thinks of algorithms as neutral,” Stamos wrote, adding that the media is simplifying the matter.
“Nobody is not aware of the risks.”
As Bloomberg reports, the easy technical solutions would boil down to silencing topics that Facebook is aware are being spread by bots — which should only be done “if you don’t worry about becoming the Ministry of Truth” with machine learning systems “trained on your personal biases,” he said.
“A lot of people aren’t thinking hard about the world they are asking [Silicon Valley] to build,”Stamos wrote.
“When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers.”
Stamos’s comments shed light on why Facebook added 1,000 more people review its advertising, rather than attempting an automated solution.
The company sent a note to advertisers telling them it would start to manually review ads targeted to people based on politics, religion, ethnicity or social issues. The company is trying to figure out how to monitor use of its system without censoring ideas, after the Russian government used fake accounts to spread political discord in the U.S. ahead of the election.
The silver lining at least is that Stamos is aware of what a terrible idea the kind of censorship that Democratic politicians (and John McCain) are demanding… whether this means that, behind the smoke and mirrors of actively managing your news feed to provide you with your self-bias-perpetuating perspective, anything will change, is anyone’s guess.
A Harvard/University of British Columbia (UBC) study unmasked a serious emotional deficit occurring among young adults. The researchers surveyed 1,099 freshmen UBC students to understand their relationships, perception of friendship, and sense of belonging. The study revealed that many new college kids display traits of delayed emotional maturity because they worry that their peers have more friends than they do and they let this affect their level of happiness. As young adults enter college, there seems to be envy for attention and a longing to fit in that plagues their minds. Their perception of belonging controls their emotions and drains their happiness.
Friendship is defined differently from one person to the next. Some people want to be liked by as many people as possible, but even a big smile and charismatic personality cannot guarantee true friendship — a two-way street built on honesty, loyalty and listening ears.
Likewise, one hour of face-to-face interaction with a real human being will always be better than ten million social media followers, twenty million likes, or forty million online connections. Digital popularity can never replace a good pair of listening ears and the natural, back-and-forth play of body language and facial expressions.
The new student with delayed emotional maturity sees the many social gatherings, cliques, and clubs available on a college campus and quickly becomes overwhelmed with the feeling of insignificance. Social media creates an illusion that others have more friends; insecurity builds in the new student because they are not in control of their own emotions. They are not confident in who they are. They do not know where they are headed. They ruminate on the feeling of lack and think that their social interaction doesn’t compare to what their peers are portraying.
“Since social activities, like eating or studying with others, tend to happen in cafes and libraries where they are easily seen, students might overestimate how much their peers are socializing because they don’t see them eating and studying alone,” said Dr Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and assistant professor in the UBC department of psychology.
The new study confirms there is a level of emotional maturity lacking in young people, as many can’t find a sense of belongingness. The study also found that when new students believe that others have more friends, their happiness is negatively impacted, even when the perception isn’t true. In other words, their need to belong is skewing their perception of socialization, driving their emotions to accept feelings of loneliness and isolation even when there is plenty of support and opportunity to make friends all around them.
The initial survey asked students how many friends they made and to estimate how many friends they thought their peers had made since the beginning of the school year. Less than a third (31 percent) believed they had made more friends than their peers, but nearly half of the body surveyed (48 percent) felt that their peers were making more friends than they were. The remainder believed that their peers had moderately made one or two more friends than they had.
After the student’s first year, the group that believed their peers had significantly more friends consistently reported lower levels of well-being. The group that moderately believed this was true was more apt to seek out friendships in the middle of the year; they reported higher levels of well-being and actually made an effort to make friends.
“We think students are motivated to make more friends if they think their peers only have one or two more friends than they do,” said researcher Dr. Ashley Whillans. “But if they feel like the gap is too big, it’s almost as if they give up and feel it isn’t even worth trying.”
The research will be used by universities in an attempt to make student’s feel a greater sense of belongingness. Even though these intentions are nice, the feeling of acceptance is something an individual must learn to find within themselves. No level of marketing and courtship on the universities part will ever make an individual recognize that they can be in charge of their own self-worth and dignity and not rely on other people’s acceptance for their own happiness.