Facebook is more dangerous than ever. You can make it stop

Cambridge Analytica's chief executive officer Alexander Nix. His firm recently found itself in the spotlight for misrepresenting itself and harvesting data from millions of Facebook users to aid the Trump campaign / AFP PHOTO / PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA
Image: AFP/Getty Images

Remember the Marlboro Man? He was a sexy vision of the American west, created by a cigarette corporation to sell a fatal product. People knew this and used that product anyway, at great detriment to themselves and those around them who quietly inhaled toxic secondhand smoke, day into long night.

An agreement between states and tobacco companies banished the rugged cowboy at the end of the 1990s, but the symbol is useful even 20 years later as we contend with a less deadly but no less frightening corporate force. Social networks that many of us signed up for in simpler times — a proverbial first smoke — have become gargantuan archives of our personal data. Now, that data is collected and leveraged by bad actors in an attempt to manipulate you and your friends. 

The time for ignorance is over. We need social responsibility to counterbalance a bad product. The public learned in alarming detail this weekend how a Trump-aligned firm called Cambridge Analytica managed to collect data on 50 million people using Facebook. All, as the Guardian put it, to “predict and influence choices at the ballot box.” Individuals who opted into Cambridge Analytica’s service — which was disguised as a personality quiz on Facebook — made their friends vulnerable to this manipulation, as well.

There were better days on the social network. When you signed up for Facebook, it’s likely because it was an alluring way for you to connect with old friends and share pictures. You hadn’t ever imagined “Russian trolls” or “fake news” or, lord knows, “Cambridge Analytica.” Chances are, you signed up before 2016, when Wired recently declared the social network had begun “two years of hell,” thanks in no small part to reporting efforts from current Mashable staffer Michael Nuñez

By then, the vast majority of Facebook’s 239 million monthly users in America had registered, had likely built an entire virtual life of friends and photos and status updates that were primed to be harvested by forces they couldn’t yet see or understand. Unlike those who continued smoking after the Marlboro Man arrived (two years after a seminal 1952 article in Reader’s Digest explained the dangers of cigarettes to the broad American public), these Facebook users lit up before they knew the cancer was coming.

Running with a health metaphor, Wired‘s “two years of hell” feature was promoted with a photo illustration by Jake Rowland that depicted a bloodied and bruised Mark Zuckerberg:

Image: photo illustration by jake rowland/esto. courtesy conde nast.

Zuckerberg may have been assaulted from all sides, but we — his users — took more of a licking than he did.

That’s because Facebook’s past two years have been all about ethical and technological crises that hurt users most of all. A favorite editor of mine hated that word, “users,” because it made it sound as though we were talking about something other than people. I can agree with that, but also see now that “users” is the word of moment: Facebook’s problems extend forever out of the idea that we are all different clumps of data generation. Human life is incidental.

Facebook’s problems extend forever out of the idea that we are all different clumps of data generation

The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful.

And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.

None of this has been secret for some time. Braver, more fed up, or perhaps more responsible users have deactivated their Facebook accounts before. But any change they made was on the basis of their experience as individuals. New revelations demand we think more in terms of our online societies.

I have exactly 1,000 Facebook friends, and about 10 actual, best friends I see on a regular basis. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to care much about those other 990 Facebook friends until revelations from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. We have to admit now that the choices we make on Facebook can directly impact others.

The social network’s policies have changed since Cambridge Analytica’s 2016 operation. But Facebook’s business model — gather data on people and profit from that data — hasn’t. We cannot expect it to. But a reasonable person would anticipate it’s only a matter of time until the next major ethical breach is revealed to the public.

We know from bad faith campaigns surrounding Brexit and the 2016 U.S. election that individual users are extremely susceptible to viral disinformation. But until now, it was less clear how Facebook’s own tools could be used by third parties to manipulate an entire network of friends in an attempt to manipulate voter behavior.

Your irresponsibility on Facebook can impact a lot of people. A link you share can catch on and influence minds even if it’s totally falsified; more to this immediate concern, a stupid quiz you take could have opened your friends’ information up in a way they’d never have expected.

You could throw the pack away and deactivate your Facebook account altogether. It will get harder the longer you wait — the more photos you post there, or apps you connect to it.

Or you could be judicious about what you post and share, and what apps you allow access to your account. There are easy ways to review this.

But just remember: There’s no precedent for a social network of this size. We can’t guess what catastrophe it sets off next. Will a policy change someday mean it’s open season on your data, even if that data has limited protections in the here and now? 

Be smart: It’s not just you, or me, out there alone.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/03/19/protect-yourself-and-your-friends-from-facebook/

From AI to Russia, Heres How Estonias President Is Planning for the Future

At 48 years old, Kersti Kaljulaid is Estonia’s youngest president ever, and its first female president. A marathon runner with degrees in genetics and an MBA, she spent a career behind the scenes—mostly as a European government auditor—before being elected by Estonia’s legislature in 2016. Two years later, she’s continuing Estonia’s push for global digital security while deflecting military and cyber threats from Russia, which occupied Estonia for 50 years until its liberation in 1991.

Known for its digital government, tax, and medical systems, Estonia is planning for the future. The country’s “e-resident” program—which allows global citizens to obtain a government-issued ID card and set up remotely-operated businesses in Estonia—has attracted 35,000 people since 2014. Now the government is discussing a proposal to grant some rights to artificially intelligent systems. The law could make it easier to regulate decision-making by autonomous systems, robots, or driverless cars.

This week, Kaljulaid visited the White House along with the leaders of Latvia and Lithuania, to meet with President Donald Trump about issues including security along the Russian border. The visit coincided with the 100th anniversary of Baltic independence after World War I, and Trump took the opportunity to reaffirm the US's commitment to protecting the Baltic States in accordance with the NATO Treaty. After attending the US-Baltic Trade Summit and laying a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, Kaljulaid sat down with WIRED’s Eric Niiler for an interview at the Estonian Embassy in Washington.

EN: With various efforts over the past decade, Estonia is moving from a traditional state to a digital society in many ways. Where does that effort stand now and what do you hope to see happen during your next few years in office?

KK: Digital society is born when your people refuse to use paper. And in our country we know that our people refuse to use paper. If you arrive at such a point in your development, you have to make your digital state always secure. You need several alternatives if something goes wrong. All the time you need to worry about security; it doesn’t differ much from your paper archives.

We have already a society which is digitally disrupted. We also see that it changes how people think about technology and work and what possibilities the internet can offer for new types of careers. For example, people don’t need enterprises to work; they can sell their skills online independently.

In our case, also the government is within in the digital sphere. We recognize that there is the need to think about tax systems if people work in five different companies in five different countries at the same time. This needs to be sorted out. We cannot sort it alone, we need to sort it globally.

Estonian citizens seem to trust their government when it comes to sharing digital information. Here in the US, we trust Facebook and Amazon to a point, but with the government, it’s quite the opposite. How have you done this?

The way we have created our trust is because our people are not anonymous on the internet. It has always been secure. If you try to transact with someone online, you would not do it with an email and pay with a credit card. What we do instead is create an encrypted channel and sign a contract that is time stamped. Estonians are much more used to internet banking rather than an online credit card. You can create trust, but you have to create tools and the legal space that supports the security for these tools. The state has to promise people to keep them safe on the internet. I find it astonishing that globally businesses are on the internet. Very few states have followed them.

What about external threats? What other sort of steps might be needed to prevent Russian aggression in places like Ukraine, or the kind of cyber-attacks and hacking that have occurred in the United States during the 2016 presidential election?

With conventional aggression, since we got the sanctions in place, Russia has not made any further advances in any other region. In cyber, we must not get narrowly concentrated on Russia only. Cyber attacks rain down on us from many places. You have to make your systems secure and safe and teach your people cyber hygiene. If you are able to attribute some attacks, it's good to be open about it as the United States has been. We need to have an understanding globally about how international rules apply in the internet sphere. Right now, that is massively missing.

What do you mean, global rules?

There’s lot of academic work on this, for example the Tallinn Manual 1 and 2. For example, we don’t attack each other’s sovereignty. Could attacking some vital electronic systems be considered an attack? What are the rights of the defender in that case? What are the rights where you fall under attack from a country you can identify, but not from the government? And if this government cannot go after the attacker because it is too weak—what are your rights then?

Speaking of rights, Estonia is looking to become perhaps the first nation to grant legal rights to artificial intelligence agents, such as fully autonomous robots or vehicles. How will it affect ordinary Estonians?

The discussion centers on whether we need to create a special legal entity for autonomous systems. If you regulate for AI, you also regulate for machine learning, self-acting and autonomous systems. We want our state to be proactive to offer services to people. You need to carefully think how to make this offer safe to our people and their private data. We want AI to be safely grown in Estonia.

Was this pushed by the advent of driverless cars?

No, it's pushed by the Estonian people's demand to get more proactive state services. For example, if a couple has a child, they are entitled to universal child support. In the Estonian people’s minds, it is unnecessary to apply for this. They say, “I had my baby, just pay me." For that, this is proactive. People demand efficiency from an automated system that is making decisions. We have to regulate. Once you go digital, you are constantly pushed by your people to provide better services.

You’ve just launched a new genetic testing program for 100,000 Estonian citizens adding to the 52,000 who have already been tested. How will this information be used to improve public health? And what kind of safeguards are there to prevent possible genetic discrimination by employers, for example?

This information belongs to those people whose genome has been analyzed. This information does not belong to the Estonian Genome Bank or the government, and it's not shared with other individuals. People’s genetic data is in an anonymous form. The aim of this program is so people will know their diabetes risk, or their heart attack risk. They can share this information with their family doctor, but they are not obliged to. They can keep it to themselves, but most people will probably share it with their doctor.

Are there any other big things on the horizon in Estonia that we should be looking for?

I wouldn’t tell you if I had. The genome bank and the digital society are the projects that have flied. I am sure there are others that have not. Our people are willing to work with the government on new technologies. Now it’s a habit; every Estonian looks at it as part of our national identity. We understand that this allows us to provide better services to our people than our money would allow.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/from-ai-to-russia-heres-how-estonias-president-is-planning-for-the-future/

Dead lizard found in bag of Trader Joe’s kale

If you’ve ever groaned at the prospect of eating kale, now you have the perfect excuse to back away from your health-conscious friend’s green smoothie. 

Grace Goldstein opened her fresh bag of Trader Joe’s kale on Tuesday, only to discover a dead lizard nestled among the leafy greens. Her friend shared the mildly gross image on Twitter to the joy of all those who reject the superfood. 

Goldstein told People magazine that after she made the shocking discovery, there was a lot of “asking [her] boyfriend to see the bag of kale and identify the lizard and shrieking and pushing it away and refusing to go near it…and then asking to see it again.” 

An understandable reaction to this grotesque find.

If you wanted a closer look at the unexpected salad guest, Goldstein also shared the photo on Instagram.

Goldstein told People that she reached out to Trader Joe’s corporate. The chain is investigating, but there have been no further updates. 

Trader Joe’s responded to Mashable’s inquiry about the incident:

“We are committed to providing customers with great products of the highest quality and are currently working with our vendor to look into and address the matter.”

Hopefully, this is an isolated incident that does not speak for all Trader Joe’s stores, bags of kale, or corporate-minded lizards.

UPDATE: April 5, 2018, 3:05 p.m. EDT This story was updated with comments from Trader Joe’s.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/04/05/trader-joes-kale-lizard/

7 WTF Details About Historical Events Everyone Forgets

Tragic events are typically followed by periods of shock, grief, anger, and the occasional flash of inexplicable horniness. So it’s only natural that when we’re dealing with lives lost and places destroyed, we tend to only focus on these important matters and damn everything else to hell. But sometimes, that means we ignore all of the chaotic insanity that typically accompanies history, making textbooks just that little bit blander. So let’s put on our Indiana Jones hats and dive into the past, and remind ourselves of some truly crazypants parts of history that usually get left out of the conversation. For example …

7

The Manual For The German Tiger Tank Contained Poetry And Porn

War is chaos. With bullets flying and bombs whizzing everywhere, preparation and alertness are the keys to survival. But while combat is exciting, combat training can be mind-numbingly boring. So how do you get a group of disinterested, overly hormonal boys to sit up, pay attention, and remember stuff? By turning that stuff into smut, of course.

During World War II, German commanders needed to quickly familiarize new recruits with the inner workings of the complicated Tiger Tank. Unfortunately, the Fuhrer’s finest were less than thrilled with spending long days memorizing the dry technical manuals. Finally, the Nazis came up with an elegant solution to motivate the laser-like focus necessary to master the tank: They included a naked lady on every other page, and made sure the important parts rhymed.

German Federal ArchivesTranslation: “Danger lurks in the sump! Read your manual well, otherwise your Tiger goes to hell!”

After the war, it was discovered that the manual for the German Panzerkampfwagen was full of nudes, jokes, and dirty limericks. This masterpiece was the brainchild of Josef von Glatter-Goetz, who had novel ideas on how to warm up his cadets’ learning muscles (among others). And most of the warming up was done by Elvira, a buxom blonde who appeared every few pages to keep the boys thumbing — or whatever else helped them get there faster.

German Federal Archives“Klaus, why do you keep taking the manual to the bathroom?”

She would pop up (often with her clothes popped off) whenever the cadets were supposed to pay extra attention to the lesson, like the importance of making accurate measurements when firing or keeping the engines clean, even if it led to making the cockpits sticky.

German Federal Archives“I only read it for the articles.”

The program was a demonstrable success, and both von Glatter-Goetz’s excellent understanding of his target audience and Elvira’s ass helped untold numbers of troops masturbate their way to mastering the Tiger Tank.

6

Hurricane Katrina Ejected Over A Thousand Coffins From Graves

According to FEMA, Hurricane Katrina was “the single most catastrophic natural disaster in U.S. history.” It caused over $41.1 billion in damage and killed more than 1,800 people. But not content with causing misery for the living, Katrina decided to go after the deceased as well, digging them up so she could pee her hate water on their faces.

Petty Officer Kyle Niemi/US Navy“You whine when it doesn’t rain, you whine when it rains too much, what do you want from me??”

During the disaster, over 1,000 coffins — and, more gruesomely, those coffin’s residents — were ejected from their places of rest. The transition wasn’t gentle, either. One New Orleans native found his grandmother’s body, still in her pink burial dress, splayed out in the open like she was trying to get a tan. Skeletal remains were sprawled among cemetery statues, and more than one coffin was found up a tree. According to the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (Dmort), it’s unlikely that all the uprooted bodies will ever be located and returned. “Many are in extremely remote and inaccessible areas,” a spokesman said. “They have been carried way downrange into muck and swamp and forest.”

APWe don’t want to sound too alarmist, but this is exactly how a zombie apocalypse would start.

Despite the difficulties, officials are still doing their best to return the drifting dead to their correct burial sites — or as much of them as they can scoop up, at least. Unfortunately, since we have this silly idea that the dead aren’t supposed to move about, corpses and coffins tend to not have any labels of traceable information. Finding a corpse that’s buried with something unique is like finding a corner piece of an especially macabre puzzle. So far, officials have been able to identify bodies buried with their favorite golf club, some unusual rosary beads, and a six-pack of beer. It won’t be long before the government starts insisting we all get buried with a valid driver’s license and two utility bills.

In the meantime, less stringent coffins laws have been introduced in order for us to better retrieve these lost soulless husks. After Katrina, Louisiana passed a law requiring labels for coffins. However, they weren’t clear enough in their wording, so now Louisiana morticians are labeling their coffins with everything from smartphone tracking apps to the less-than-ideal paper tags. Inhabitants of one particularly low-lying cemetery now have beacons attached to their coffins, but the battery life for the floater-be-found is still to be determined.

William Widmer/The New York Times“Warmer … warmer … colder …”

5

King George V Was Euthanized So His Death Could Make The Right Headlines

For all the perks associated with being born into a royal family (unlimited wealth, the right to eat peasants, fancy hats), living the life of royalty also means you’re always in the public spotlight. Never can you falter from keeping up appearances, making sure your every action benefits the crown as best as possible. That includes your death, because god forbid a royal should die at an inconvenient time of day like some low-class pleb.

Library of CongressGod Save the Facial Hair

When Britain’s King George V lay on his deathbed in 1936, doctors were concerned about more than his failing health. Convinced that the king was not long for this world, medical staff began suspecting he might not kick the gilded bucket at the most dignified of times. Deciding that the matter couldn’t be left in the clumsy hands of God or fate, steps were taken to “hasten” the king’s death, and he was euthanized in his sleep shortly before midnight on January 20th.

Why the rush? According to the notes of his physician, Lord Dawson, the king was given lethal doses of morphine and cocaine so that word of his death would appear ”in the morning papers rather than the less appropriate evening journals.” Dawson administered the injections to King George himself at around 11 p.m., right after he’d had his wife in London ”advise The Times to hold back publication.” That’s right, the king’s life had a literal deadline.

Bradford Timeline“Here is the royal speedball, your grace.”

Whether the injections counted as mercy or murder is still a topic of debate. Though the king had been in generally poor health for some time, the doctor had only been summoned to care for him four days prior to his death. On the morning of his last day, the king held a meeting with his privy counselors, which is pretty lucid for someone who’s about to get injected with mercy coke. Documents give “no indication that the King himself had been consulted,” but seeing as his last words were “God damn you” to a nurse administering a sedative, we don’t think he would’ve liked being involuntarily Belushied so that the morning papers would sell a few extra copies.

4

Millions Of Landmines Were Left In The Sahara After WWII, And Now ISIS Is Digging Them Up

Aside from proving how adept people can be at killing each other, World War II also highlighted how much the resulting clean-up sucks. Entire continents had to deal with the debris of their broken nations, the costly effects of which can still be felt. One group that was exempt from their collective spring cleaning were, of course, the Nazis, who were a bit busy getting tribunaled to death. Which is a shame, because they had millions of unexploded landmines buried in the African desert, and every other country had already touched their noses and called “Not it!”

German Federal Archives“I’m sure my actions will have no lasting consequences.”

But that was over 70 years ago. Surely we’ve taken care of those pesky balls of death we left buried in the sand since then, right? While countries like Egypt have tried to reduce the 17 million landmines both Nazi and Allied forces left behind in their desert, the place is still a minefield of … minefields. Thanks to the high temperatures and dry climate, the Sahara is doing an amazing job of preserving these war relics, which means they’re still very capable of taking a limb (or life) if fiddled with too much. But while most people are content with not going near any unstable explosives, there’s one pesky little death cult that doesn’t mind going out in a blaze of glory, intentional or otherwise.

In the past few years, ISIS has realized that one man’s minefield is another man’s massive cache of explosives, so they’re digging up and reusing landmines and their components. There have been several reports of ISIS terrorist attacks in which they used old munitions “MacGyvered” into IEDs. At least when it comes to age, ISIS seems to be quite open-minded.

NATOAs well as being adrenaline junkies.

And landmines aren’t the only type of antique firepower people in the region are packing these days. In 2015, video footage showed Syrian rebels firing a 1935 German howitzer. Meanwhile, Iraqi weapons inspectors documented the capture of a 1942 Lee-Enfield rifle, and the Armament Research Services report that British Webley revolvers, Italian cavalry carbines, Mausers, and Bren guns have appeared for sale in Libya. As long as it goes “boom” and someone dies, they’re only too happy to put it to terrible use.

via Shaam News NetworkNazis: ruining your day since 1933.

3

The Feud Between The Hatfields And The McCoys Was Probably Caused By A Medical Condition

History has seen its share of epic feuds, but few are as legendary as the pissing contest that took place between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the Kentucky McCoys in the late 1800s. Why were they so special? Longevity. They kept their fiery hatred going for a solid decade. But recent medical tests have revealed that, at least on the McCoy side, that might have been because hatred literally runs in their blood.

via Encyclopaedia BritannicaMoments later, the man on the right was riddled with bullets.

Why did these two ornery tribes want to shed each others’ blood so badly? Some say the beef started over a stolen hog, while others think it was residual hostility from the families having fought on opposite sides during the Civil War. Over a hundred years later, we still have no idea what spark started the fire, but we have an idea of where they got the gasoline. In 2007, a young girl called Winnter [sic] Reynolds was struggling at school. She had anger issues, and would often fly into fits of rage. While her teachers thought it was nothing but a bad case of ADHD, a series of medical tests revealed it was worse than that. She had bad blood. McCoy blood, to be specific.

Winnter is the latest offspring of the McCoy bloodline, from whom she had inherited her temper. She suffers from a rare genetic condition called von Hippel-Lindau disease. The illness causes the formation of adrenal tumors which cause, among other things, “hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts.” After Winnter’s diagnosis, it was revealed that several other McCoy descendants had also been diagnosed with the same condition. And while having tumors keeping you pissed off 24/7 still doesn’t shed any light on the start of the feud, it does go a long way toward explaining their whole “I’m going to kill you over some bacon” reputation.

Earl Neikirk/AP“Cleetus, go fetch the tumor chart, we gotta black another circle.”

2

We Are Still Paying A Civil War Pension

War is never not tragic, but civil wars pile all the hurt on one people. With an estimated 620,000 lives lost during the American Civil War, the cost of that little disagreement hurt the nation badly. The price paid was terrible — not only in human lives, but also in the long-term financial state of the country. How long-term? They’re still adding up, apparently.

US ArmyYeah, were sure their main concern was how much this was gonna cost.

While the indirect ramifications are impossible to calculate, there is still one straightforward bill the U.S. Civil War is serving America: $73.13, to be exact, paid monthly to one woman in North Carolina. You see, because soldiers have a tragic tendency of not always being able to collect what Uncle Sam owes them, the government compensates by also paying out pensions to widows and children of war veterans. And while the Civil War ended more than 150 years ago, believe it or not, there’s still one soldier’s child alive and kicking. That would be Irene Triplett, 86 years young, and she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Irene’s father, Mose Triplett, was born in 1846, and managed to fight on both sides of the Civil War — though that sadly didn’t mean he’d get to draw two pensions. He later married a woman 50 years his junior, who we’re assuming must’ve been into antique cannons. When Irene was born, Mose was 83 years old and ready to mosey on up to Heaven.

via Stoneman Gazette“Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex …”

But Irene’s isn’t the only 19th-century war pension that still being paid out. We’re also still supporting 88 people for their families’ contributions to the Spanish-American War, which started and ended in 1898. And while we’re certainly not begrudging anyone their dues, if we keep up our current military policies, half of our country’s 2080 budget will be going to Iraq vets’ second families.

1

The Search For Wreckage Of The Challenger Turned Up A Lot Of Junk — And A Duffel Bag Of Cocaine

Being an air crash site investigator must be a harrowing gig. Their entire job revolves around cataloging the most horrific of disaster scenes, where the Earth has gotten a dose of corpse buckshot to the face. But finding 73 separate pieces of the same human being isn’t the only weird thing they might find at a crash site. Sometimes they also find a shit ton of coke.

CNNGodspeed, friends.

Like 9/11, the Challenger disaster is one of those awful tragedies seared into memories of all who witnessed it. Seven people lost their lives simply because some faulty O-rings and unusually cold weather caused their vessel to blow up and plow into the ocean. After the crash, NASA immediately began searching the Atlantic for any and all portions of the shuttle that survived the crash, as well as any remains of the crew that could be retrieved and given a proper burial. But with such a spread out investigation site in constantly shifting water, the crew was bound to encounter some weird stuff.

For nine weeks, experts spent 15-hour days combing sonar data of a 420-mile area. But when their submarines or robots finally found the wreckage, they also stumbled upon what looked like Poseidon’s garage sale. During NASA’s investigation, they encountered a whole warehouse full of lagan (that’s maritime for “junk”). Some of the more ordinary items included batteries and paint cans, a refrigerator, a filing cabinet, a kitchen sink, and a toilet. More interesting finds were eight shipwrecks, a Pershing missile, and half of a torpedo.

But the best non-shuttle find by far was a duffel bag containing 25 kilograms of cocaine. When NASA handed it over to the police (what a bunch of goody-two-shoes), they revealed the estimated street value of the marching powder at $13 million, roughly the cost of the entire salvage mission. So if you’re struggling to find rent money or hoping to remodel your house, maybe spend more time hanging out at the beach.

Kelly Stone remembers watching the Challenger explode, and speaks only as much German as Google Translate does. She sometimes Tweets about cats and Star Trek.

History is insane — find out more from the Cracked De-Textbook!

Support Cracked’s journalism with a visit to our Contribution Page. Please and thank you.

For more, check out 6 Dark Details History Usually Leaves Out (For Good Reason) and 6 Disasters With Details So Awful, History Left Them Out.

It would be a shame if you didn’t follow us on Facebook.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_25481_7-wtf-details-about-historical-events-everyone-forgets.html

10 Toxic Shock Syndrome Symptoms To Look Out For

Women who use tampons have seen the warnings about toxic shock syndrome (TSS) printed on boxes for years and years.

TSS is a rare bacterial infection, with one to two cases per 100,000 menstruating women between the ages of 15 to 44 in the US. That said, it can happen with tampon use when Staphylococcus or Streptococcus bacteria gets deep into bodily tissue and begins attacking internal organs. Additionally, women under the age of 30 are much more likely to get TSS.

TSS requires immediate treatment. The scary thing is that symptoms of TSS can be similar to menstrual cramps and/or the flu. That’s why it’s critical you know and recognize the signs that you may have it. Here are 10 symptoms of TSS to watch for.

1. Leaving In A Tampon For Too Long (Especially If It’s Higher Absorbency)

2. Sudden High Fever

3. Vomiting

5. Low Blood Pressure

6. Confusion Or Dizziness

7. A Sunburn-Like Rash On Hands And Feet

8. Muscle Aches And Headaches

9. Redness in Mouth, Throat, And Eyes

10. Seizures And Fainting

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/toxic-shock-syndrome-symptoms/

EPA Reportedly Approved Pipeline Project Linked To Lobbyist Renting Room To Pruitt

The Environmental Protection Agency approved a pipeline project last year during the same time period that administrator Scott Pruitt was renting a room from the wife of a lobbyist who represented the pipeline’s owner, The New York Times reported on Monday.

The news comes amid a growing controversy surrounding Pruitt’s unusual housing arrangement, in which he paid $50 a night to rent a room in a luxury condo from Vicki Hart, whose husband runs Williams & Jensen, a well-known energy lobbying firm. 

The rental agreement, which was open-ended, offered a rate that was well below market value. The White House is conducting an informal review of the matter, unnamed officials told the Wall Street Journal and CNN.

At the same time that Pruitt had access to the condo, the EPA signaled its approval for a pipeline project from Enbridge Inc. The Canada-based company hoped to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline and ship hundreds of thousands of barrels of additional oil to the U.S. each day.

Williams & Jensen was a registered lobbyist for Enbridge at the time, the Times reported. However, a spokesman from the firm told the newspaper that Williams & Jensen did not lobby the EPA or Pruitt on the project’s behalf.

Liz Bowman, Pruitt’s spokeswoman, also told the Times that “any attempt to draw that link is patently false.”

The State Department granted the permit last October. Since then, Enbridge has expanded the pipeline. 

Critics say the $6,100 Pruitt paid for his rental over six months amounted to a sweetheart deal. Rates for a one-bedroom apartment in D.C. are typically thousands of dollars higher per month and often require a contract for a set amount of time, whether the occupant sleeps there or not.

On Monday, several House Democrats sent Pruitt a letter asking him to detail the arrangement surrounding the rental.

The EPA’s senior ethics counsel, Justina Fugh, said last Friday the agreement did not qualify as a “prohibited gift at all,” and described the deal as “a routine business transaction and permissible even if from a personal friend.”

But the coverage of Pruitt’s close personal and financial ties to a lobbyist was just the latest in a string of negative press for the EPA chief. On Monday, it was reported that the EPA considered leasing a private jet for Pruitt’s travels. A story in Politico also noted that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has already considered firing the administrator

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-pipeline-project-apartment_us_5ac307bbe4b04646b64577c3

Jeremy Wade: My Wet-and-Wild Search for Missing River Monsters…and Answers

I have a confession to make: For nine years I made a TV show, River Monsters, that left some people believing that everywhere you go, there are fish that can bite pieces out of you or pull you under. But its not quite like that.

The fish are real enoughfrom dog-sized super-piranhas in the Congo to 300-pound river stingrays in South America, and armor-plated alligator gar in the U.S.and youd be well advised not to get too close to most of them. But the thing is, theyre really hard to find. So the chances of ever being in the wrong place at the wrong time are reassuringly small.

But (anglers would say) surely thats the whole thing about big fish: Theyre a lot smarter than small fish, and there arent so many of them. Thats true, but they havent always been as scarce as they are now. Fish have been in our rivers for 300 million years. This decline has happened in just a few human generationsthe last 100 years.

Unlike the state of our oceans, which is well documented, this story isnt widely known. Its something that has slowly revealed itself to me over 35 years, during my travels to far-flung rivers. Partly its from historical records, but mostly its oral history, which nobody has ever collated or written down. Its a vast database, but it exists only in the memory of the old fishermen, who are dying as we speak.

What Ive been doing since 1982, without realizing it until very recently, is taking blood samples. And the results demand investigation.
Jeremy Wade

So why am I telling you this now? Because it has a significance that goes way beyond making my life harder when Im on a film shoot.

Long before I worked in TV I was a biology teacher, and in science-speak most of the fish that I go after are apex predatorsthey sit at the top of the food pyramid. That makes them really good indicators of the health of the whole river. If the apex predator is there, you can normally assume that the rest of the pyramid is there toothe middle-sized fish that they eat, the small fish that they eat, and all the bugs and plankton that they eat. But if the apex predator is not there, it suggests that something is wrong.

Take a minute for a quick thought experiment. Imagine someone discovering that they have an abnormally low count of white blood cells (the apex predators of the bloodstream). What do they do? They go for more tests, as a matter of urgency. They want to find out how serious this is, and whats the prognosis. Most importantly, they want to know what can be done about it. What they dont do is ignore it.

Now consider what is often said about our rivers: that they are our planets arteries. If thats the case, then what Ive been doing since 1982, without realizing it until very recently, is taking blood samples. And the results demand investigation.

The obviousand simpleexplanation for the decline of these top predators is overfishing. But it could be a symptom of something more serious. Thats the real worry. And its important we look into this because we are water-based life forms too. Water doesnt just cycle from rivers to oceans to clouds to rain and back to rivers againit flows through every one of us, through every cell in our bodies. So we all have a vested interest in the state of our planets water.

This was the genesis of Mighty Rivers, and it was an insight that meant putting everything else on hold. But where to begin? How can you make any meaningful survey of the worlds rivers in a half-dozen programs? It was a challenge that seemed impossiblelike trying to film goonch catfish underwater in the Himalayas, or catch a 250-pound arapaima from the Amazon on a fly rod, or swim with oarfish at night in a mile and a half of water. But wed been there and done all that, in River Monsters season 1, 6 and 8 respectively.

More of a challenge, perhaps, was making a show about the environment that people would want to watch. But here again we had our River Monsters heritage to draw on. Strange as it may seem now, we faced a similar challenge nine years ago. A conventional program about fishing is never going to attract a big audience, or a diverse audience. But River Monsters did both, to spectacular effect, by busting out of existing categories and creating its own genre.

Will Mighty Rivers achieve the same? My fervent hope is that it will achieve more, in its own special way. Thats not just a fishermans blind optimism speaking. A fishermans faith is always rooted in realism. And make no mistake: Im still fishing. But this time Im not just fishing for fishIm fishing for answers, Im fishing for surprises, and Im fishing for hope. And Im fishing for an audience that I know is out there, who are interested in looking at fish and rivers and water and the world in a new way.

Ill see you on the riverbank.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/jeremy-wade-my-wet-and-wild-search-for-missing-river-monsters-and-answers

New York’s Cardinal Dolan: Democrats have abandoned Catholics

A couple of events over the past few weeks brought to mind two towering people who had a tremendous effect on the Archdiocese of New York and the U.S. more broadly. Their witness is worth remembering, especially in this political moment.

Last Saturday’s feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of our cathedral and archdiocese, reminded me of Archbishop John Hughes. As the first archbishop of New York (1842-64), “Dagger John” displayed dramatic reverence for the dignity of Irish immigrants. Thousands arrived daily in New York — penniless, starving and sometimes ill — only to be met with hostility, bigotry and injustice.

An immigrant himself, Hughes prophetically and vigorously defended their dignity. Because the schools at the time were hostile to these immigrants, he initiated Catholic schools to provide children with a good education sensitive to their religion and to prepare them as responsible, patriotic citizens. The schools worked. Many remain open to this day, their mission unchanged.

The second event was the recent funeral of a great African-American woman, Dolores Grier. A convert to Catholicism, she was named vice chancellor of the archdiocese three decades ago by Cardinal John O’Connor; she was the first layperson and first woman to hold the prestigious position. Grier was passionate about civil rights, especially the right to life of babies in the womb. She never missed an opportunity to defend, lovingly but forcefully, their right to life.

Grier attributed her pro-life sensitivity to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who preached that abortion was an act of genocide against minorities. No wonder, she often observed, abortuaries were clustered in poor black and brown neighborhoods. The statistics today confirm her observation: In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758), according to a report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In 2013 there were more black babies aborted in New York City (29,007) than were born here (24,758).

The values Archbishop Hughes and Dolores Grier cherished — the dignity and sanctity of human life, the importance of Catholic schools, the defense of a baby’s civil rights — were, and still are, widely embraced by Catholics. This often led Catholics to become loyal Democrats. I remember my own grandmother whispering to me, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.”

Such is no longer the case, a cause of sadness to many Catholics, me included. The two causes so vigorously promoted by Hughes and Grier—the needs of poor and middle-class children in Catholic schools, and the right to life of the baby in the womb — largely have been rejected by the party of our youth. An esteemed pro-life Democrat in Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipinski, effectively was blacklisted by his own party. Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

Last year, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez insisted that pro-life candidates have no place in the modern Democratic Party.

It is particularly chilly for us here in the state Hughes and Grier proudly called their earthly home. In recent years, some Democrats in the New York state Assembly repeatedly blocked education tax credit legislation, which would have helped middle-class and low-income families make the choice to select Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children. Opposing the bill reduces the ability of fine Catholic schools across the state to continue their mission of serving the poor, many of them immigrants.

More sobering, what is already the most radical abortion license in the country may soon be even more morbidly expanded. For instance, under the proposed Reproductive Health Act, doctors would not be required to care for a baby who survives an abortion. The newborn simply would be allowed to die without any legal implications. And abortions would be legal up to the moment of birth.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent. Annafi Wahed, a former staffer to Hillary Clinton, recently wrote in this newspaper about her experience attending the Conservative Political Action Conference. She complimented the conservative attendees, pointing out that most made her feel welcome at their meeting. They listened attentively to her views — a courtesy, she had to admit, that would not be given to them at a meeting of political liberals.

The “big tent” of the Democratic Party now seems a pup tent.

I’m a pastor, not a politician, and I’ve certainly had spats and disappointments with politicians from both of America’s leading parties. But it saddens me, and weakens the democracy millions of Americans cherish, when the party that once embraced Catholics now slams the door on us.

To Archbishop Hughes, Dolores Grier, and Grandma Dolan, I’m sorry to have to write this. But not as sad as you are to know it is true.

Cardinal Dolan is archbishop of New York.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/03/24/new-yorks-cardinal-dolan-democrats-have-abandoned-catholics.html

Here’s The Thing About Your Family That Could Make You A Better Person

Sisters. They’re great for having built-in best friends, chatting all night, and of course, “borrowing” clothes.

My sister and I are definitely all of that for each other, and in fact, that’s the case for all of the sister duos and trios in my life. If you have a sister, you probably know just how special they are. Whenever you need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, they’re always there.

And as it turns out, studies show that having a sister could actually make you a better human being!

“They help you develop social skills, like communication, compromise, and negotiation,” said Alex Jensen, assistant professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University and the author of research into sibling relationships, said according to Huffington Post. “Even sibling conflict, if it is minor, can promote healthy development.”

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A 2010 study even showed that having a sister can benefit mental health. The study found that participants with sisters had fewer feelings of guilt, self-consciousness, and fears.

Flickr

According to Jensen, “What we know suggests that sisters play a role in promoting positive mental health, and later in life they often do more to keep families in contact with one another after the parents pass.”

Research also shows that brothers who have sisters are better at communicating with the ladies later in life. Practice makes perfect, after all!

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“Some research suggests that having a sibling who is a different gender from you can be a real benefit in adolescence,” Jensen said. “Many of those sibling pairs become closer during the teen years because they become good sources of information about the opposite sex.”

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Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/having-a-sister/

Leaked Memo: EPA Shows Workers How To Downplay Climate Change

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday evening sent employees a list of eight approved talking points on climate change from its Office of Public Affairs ― guidelines that promote a message of uncertainty about climate science and gloss over proposed cuts to key adaptation programs.

An internal email obtained by HuffPost ― forwarded to employees by Joel Scheraga, a career staffer who served under President Barack Obama ― directs communications directors and regional office public affairs directors to note that the EPA “promotes science that helps inform states, municipalities and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies” and “works with state, local, and tribal government to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and natural disasters.”

But beyond those benign statements acknowledging the threats climate change poses are talking points boiled down from the sort of climate misinformation EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has long trumpeted.

“Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner,” one point reads. “The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.”

The other states: “While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.”

The email was sent under the subject line: “Consistent Messages on Climate Adaptation.”

In a Wednesday statement to HuffPost, the EPA confirmed the memo and said the agency’s “work on climate adaptation continues under the leadership of Dr. Scheraga.”

Later Wednesday afternoon, Liz Bowman, an EPA spokeswoman, disputed HuffPost’s characterization of the email. 

“This is not an official memo; this is simply an email among colleagues, based on information developed by someone in our office,” she said, adding that “implying we are telling people to downplay climate change is a gross over misrepresentation of the facts.” 

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
President Donald Trump invites Pruitt to the podium after announcing his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement on June 1, 2017.

The delivery of the talking points comes a week after Pruitt announced plans to restrict the agency’s use of science in writing environmental rules, barring the use of research unless the raw data can be made public for other scientists and industry to scrutinize. That directive would disqualify huge amounts of public health research conducted on the condition that subjects’ personal information will remain private. Two former top EPA officials called the move an “attack on science” in a New York Times op-ed published Monday.

Last year, the EPA reassigned the four staffers in the policy office who worked on climate adaptation, shuttered its program on climate adaptation and proposed eliminating funding for programs that deal with rising seas and warming temperatures.

Pruitt personally oversaw efforts to scrub climate change from EPA websites, and staunchly defended President Donald Trump’s decision last June to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. In October, Pruitt proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan, one of the only major federal policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The agency had also suggested zeroing out funding for most of its major climate and regional science grant programs, only to see Congress reject most of the cuts in the budget bill passed last week.

The assertions made in the new EPA talking points are not rooted in science. Ninety-seven percent of peer-reviewed research agrees with the conclusion that emissions from burning fossil fuels, deforestation and industrial farming are enshrouding the planet in heat-trapping gases, and are the primary causes of rising planetary temperatures. A research review published in November 2016 found significant flaws in the methodologies, assumptions or analyses used by the 3 percent of scientists who concluded otherwise.

But for the past three decades, a Big Tobacco-style misinformation campaign funded primarily by oil, gas and coal interests has fueled political debate over the integrity of the scientific consensus.

“Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science,” the final point states.

Here’s the full email (emphasis theirs):

Dear Colleagues:

During the recent meeting of our Cross-EPA Work Group on Climate Adaptation, several individuals suggested it would be helpful to develop consistent messages about EPA’s climate adaptation efforts that could be used across all Program and Regional Offices. I’m pleased to report that the Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has developed a set of talking points about climate change that include several related to climate adaptation. These talking points were distributed today by Nancy Grantham (OPA) to the Communications Directors and the Regional Public Affairs Directors.

The following are the talking points distributed by OPA. I have highlighted those relating specifically to our adaptation work.

  • EPA recognizes the challenges that communities face in adapting to a changing climate.
  • EPA works with state, local, and tribal governments to improve infrastructure to protect against the consequences of climate change and natural disasters.
  • EPA also promotes science that helps inform states, municipalities, and tribes on how to plan for and respond to extreme events and environmental emergencies.
  • Moving forward, EPA will continue to advance its climate adaptation efforts, and has reconvened the cross-EPA Adaptation Working Group in support of those efforts.
  • Human activity impacts our changing climate in some manner. The ability to measure with precision the degree and extent of that impact, and what to do about it, are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.
  • While there has been extensive research and a host of published reports on climate change, clear gaps remain including our understanding of the role of human activity and what we can do about it.
  • As a key regulatory voice, it is important for the Agency to strive for a better understanding of these gaps given their potential significant influence on our country’s domestic economic viability
  • Administrator Pruitt encourages an open, transparent debate on climate science.

Best regards,

Joel

Joel D. Scheraga, Ph.D

Senior Advisor for Climate Adaptation

Office of Policy

This story has been updated with statements from the EPA. 

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/epa-climate-adaptation_us_5abbb5e3e4b04a59a31387d7