Monday, December 2nd, 2019


No Man is an Island

The nurses were supposed to mix the measles vaccine with water but due to an error, they instead mixed it with an expired muscle relaxant. That mistake led to the deaths of two infants in Samoa. In the year and a half since that sad event, those two deaths led to rumors, misinformation, and eventually outright lies about the danger of vaccinating against measles and other deadly diseases. On remote islands like Samoa, even word of mouth rumors can spread at internet speed. So the rate of vaccinations plummeted to a low of 31 percent. The measles virus was lying in wait, just like it is in communities around the world where misinformation is driving down vaccination rates. Now, "the number of people killed in Samoa's measles outbreak has reached 53, with almost 4,000 cases reported in total." It's a tragic story and a cautionary tale in an era when an increasing susceptibility to falsehoods can lead to an increasing vulnerability to much worse. BBC: How a wrong injection helped cause Samoa's measles epidemic.


Boies and Girls Club

"Kessler was a liar, and he wouldn't expose any sexual abuse. But he would reveal something else: The extraordinary, at times deceitful measures elite lawyers deployed in an effort to get evidence that could be used to win lucrative settlements — and keep misconduct hidden, allowing perpetrators to abuse again. Mr. Boies has publicly decried such secret deals as 'rich man's justice,' a way that powerful men buy their way out of legal and reputational jeopardy. This is how it works." A very interesting NYT piece that calls a lot of things into question, including how we should report stories like these. Jeffrey Epstein, Blackmail and a Lucrative Hot List. "A shadowy hacker claimed to have the financier's sex tapes. Two top lawyers wondered: What would the men in those videos pay to keep them secret?"


Modi Operandi

"On February 26th, Modi ordered air strikes against what he claimed was a training camp for militants in the town of Balakot. Sympathetic outlets described a momentous victory: they pumped out images of a devastated landscape, and, citing official sources, claimed that three hundred militants had been killed. But Western reporters visiting the site found no evidence of any deaths; there were only a handful of craters, a slightly damaged house, and some fallen trees. Many of the pro-Modi posts turned out to be crude fabrications. Pratik Sinha, of Alt News, pointed out that photos claiming to depict dead Pakistani militants actually showed victims of a heat wave; other images, ostensibly of the strikes, were cribbed from a video game called Arma 2. But, in a country where hundreds of millions of people are illiterate or nearly so, the big idea got through." Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker: Blood and Soil in Narendra Modi's India: The Prime Minister's Hindu-nationalist government has cast two hundred million Muslims as internal enemies.


Adding Fuel (Prices) to the Fire

"Iran is experiencing its deadliest political unrest since the Islamic Revolution 40 years ago, with at least 180 people killed — and possibly hundreds more — as angry protests have been smothered in a government crackdown of unbridled force." NYT: With Brutal Crackdown, Iran Is Convulsed by Worst Unrest in 40 Years. (As with other mass protests around the world, this one was triggered by a hike in fuel prices.)


Self Deregulation

"Well, this is a clearly a very complex issue, and a lot of people have-- have a lot of different opinions. At the end of the day, I just think that in a democracy, people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying." So said Mark Zuckerberg in his latest explanation why Facebook allows politicians to pay to spread lies on the platform. (Instead of countering the now much-watched Sacha Baron Cohen speech on his failures, Zuckerberg essentially confirms Cohen's points.)

+ "Match Group, which owns most major online dating services, screens for sexual predators on Match — but not on Tinder, OkCupid or PlentyofFish. A spokesperson said, 'There are definitely registered sex offenders on our free products.'" ProPublica: Tinder Lets Known Sex Offenders Use the App. It's Not the Only One.

+ WaPo: Amazon pulls Auschwitz-themed Christmas ornaments, although other Holocaust merchandise remains on site. (Ultimately, it doesn't matter if tech giants can't police themselves or won't police themselves. The fact is that they're not, so someone else must.)


Thick as Thieves

"The new bags, while classified as reusable, closely resemble their single-use predecessors and are often thrown away after one transaction. Still, they satisfy the law because they can be used 125 times without falling apart." SF Chronicle: California banned plastic bags. So why do stores keep using them? (It turns out you can still use plastic bags, but only if they're really thick plastic bags...)


Fake it Til You Break It

"It's almost impossible to describe. It's like being punched in the gut. My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He's demeaning me and my career. It's sickening. But it's also very intimidating because he's still the president of the United States. And when the president accuses you of treason by name, despite the fact that I know there's no fathomable way that I have committed any crime at all, let alone treason, he's still somebody in a position to actually do something about that." The Daily Beast: Lisa Page, the former FBI lawyer and ongoing Trump target breaks two years of silence. Why is she speaking now? "Honestly, his demeaning fake orgasm was really the straw that broke the camel's back.'" (The founding fathers considered how to deal with a lot of things, but not this...)

+ Meanwhile, the person who has done the most to weaken NATO in the past three years is complaining that the Dems are "not nice" for holding impeachment hearings during his trip to the NATO Summit. Here's the latest from the impeach pit from CNN.


Go Fund Yourselves

"Since 2013, the company has conducted a multimillion-dollar campaign to lure patients with targeted online ads, hyped claims and high-pressure seminars, according to internal documents and former staff. In interviews, former employees responsible for fielding patients' calls said they were given monthly sales quotas. Former company doctors and nurses described working as 'closers,' using their medical credentials to persuade wavering patients to put money down." WaPo: Clinic pitches unproven treatments to desperate patients, with tips on raising the cash.


Awed Quad Squad Blows Wad For Flawed Fraud

"The audience of nearly 3,000 received her with faces upturned, arms waving, mouths open in screaming adoration. She gave a special shout-out to 10 attendees who'd provided selfie evidence of devotional tattoos. This was the first time I'd set eyes on Arzon, and as is the case with many things intended to be earnestly motivational in 2019, her shtick felt both deeply corny and like something I'd kill to believe in." Amanda Mull in The Atlantic: I Joined a Stationary-Biker Gang. "Peloton aficionados say the latest exercise craze gives them a sense of community they sorely missed." (For the love of all that is holy, just go outside and encounter actual people again!)


Bottom of the News

"In the post, she explains that '30 seconds of sunlight on your butthole is the equivalent of a full day of sunlight with your clothes on,' and that it is 'an ancient Taoist practice that's been around for a while!' (Yes, because that is what 'ancient' means.)" Jezebel: Sunbathe Your Assh*le, for Wellness. (I leave the internet alone for a few days, and this is what happens...)

+ "Tried this perineum sunning that I've been hearing about and my suggestion is DO NOT do it as long as I did. My pucker hole is crazy burned and I was going to spend the day shopping with my family and instead I'm icing and using aloe and burn creams because of the severity of the pain." Slate: Josh Brolin Tried 'Perineum Sunning' and It Completely Ruined His Day. (I'm guessing he's joking. But if not, this helps explain why he was the perfect actor to play Thanos, a character who wanted to kill half the world.)

+ Dictionary dot com names Existential the 2019 Word of the Year. (I'd say the above story confirms that they made the right choice...)