Archive for March 5th, 2013
Afghan children watch burning expired medical items and food on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Facebook has come under fire from those who say the network is turning down the volume on their posts, but the bottom line is that the network can — and will — do whatever it wants with the algorithms controlling its news feed.
Facebook seems to be making users upset and/or confused again with the way it handles its news feed. A few months ago, it was actor George Takei and billionaire Mark Cuban who were upset with what they saw as changes to the Facebook algorithm that made their content less visible, and this time around it’s New York Times writer Nick Bilton, who complained that his posts haven’t been getting as many likes or shares as they used to. The assumption is that Facebook wants you to pay to get this kind of reach, but regardless of whether that’s what is happening, it still sends a valuable message: you are not in control — Facebook is.
Bilton described in a piece for the Bits section of the Times how his posts used to get as many as 50 or even a hundred likes and shares, from users of Facebook who had signed up to get his feed using the network’s relatively new Subscribe feature. But even though the number of users who subscribe has soared from just 25,000 after the feature was launched to almost half a million now, Bilton said that he gets far fewer responses to his posts — sometimes as little as 10 or 15 likes and shares. After paying Facebook to promote his posts, however, that number increased by almost 1,000 percent..
The conclusion that everyone seems to be jumping to is the same one that Mark Cuban arrived at when he complained in November about the increasing difficulty of reaching his fans on the network: namely, that Facebook is deliberately tuning out (or at least turning down) the signal coming from some users so that it can convince them to use promotional tools like ads and “sponsored stories.” Cuban said he was so irritated by the move that he was diverting almost all of the marketing budget from his various brands away from Facebook to Twitter and other platforms.
…An official post on the Facebook site entitled “Fact Check” says:
“Our goal with News Feed is always to show each individual the most relevant blend of stories that maximizes engagement and interest. There have been recent claims suggesting that our News Feed algorithm suppresses organic distribution of posts in favor of paid posts in order to increase our revenue. This is not true…”
The bottom line, of course, is that there is no real way for anyone to know why Facebook’s algorithm behaves the way it does, any more than it’s possible for us to know why certain pages rank high in Google. They are both a black box, and the way they function is a mystery. As I tried to point out to Cuban, Facebook is entitled to do whatever it wants with your news feed, including using it to convince you to pay for promotional tools, because it owns your news feed — not you. It’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.
Being a political animal, first, I’m glad to catch any page views I do. We live in society that has always discouraged dissent. The penalties can run from ignoring you – to prison. And don’t kid yourselves, I’ve had friends who experienced the latter.
But, my experience online has continued to be one of growth and concurrent acceptance. Yes, my experience was much the same when I was a performing artist. But, then, I had to put up with all the crap that comes with the territory. I finally quit the circuit – because I wasn’t satisfied with what I was able to do. Online, it’s all pretty much my own responsibility, my choices.
That’s good enough for me whether posting here at my personal site or at one of the Big Sites where I’m one of several contributing editors.
This is similar to the design seen by the Alitalia pilot
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report from a pilot of an Alitalia passenger jet who says he saw an unmanned aircraft while landing at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
“We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,” the pilot can be heard telling controllers on radio calls captured by the website LiveATC.net.
“The FAA is investigating a report… he saw a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right,” according a statement sent to CNN by FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. “The sighting was approximately four to five miles west of the airport at an altitude of approximately 1,500 feet,” she said.
That description puts the aircraft somewhere over Brooklyn and on the other side of the airport from where the plane was coming in for a landing…
The Alitalia aircraft did not have to take any evasive action and landed safely at JFK…
For recreational hobbyists, flying remote-controlled planes is only allowed by the FAA up to 400 feet in the air, and within sight of the operator. If they are going to fly within three miles of an airport, they have to let air traffic controllers know.
Flying unmanned aerial vehicles is illegal for most business purposes; however, governments and public entities such as police departments can apply for permission to operate them.
20 years ago, it would have been called a UFO.
Thirteen years ago, researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum began the grim task of documenting all the ghettos, slave labor sites, concentration camps and killing factories that the Nazis set up throughout Europe.
What they have found so far has shocked even scholars steeped in the history of the Holocaust.
The researchers have cataloged some 42,500 Nazi ghettos and camps throughout Europe, spanning German-controlled areas from France to Russia and Germany itself, during Hitler’s reign of brutality from 1933 to 1945.
The figure is so staggering that even fellow Holocaust scholars had to make sure they had heard it correctly when the lead researchers previewed their findings at an academic forum in late January at the German Historical Institute in Washington.
“The numbers are so much higher than what we originally thought,” Hartmut Berghoff, director of the institute, said in an interview after learning of the new data.
“We knew before how horrible life in the camps and ghettos was,” he said, “but the numbers are unbelievable.”
The documented camps include not only “killing centers” but also thousands of forced labor camps, where prisoners manufactured war supplies; prisoner-of-war camps; sites euphemistically named “care” centers, where pregnant women were forced to have abortions or their babies were killed after birth; and brothels, where women were coerced into having sex with German military personnel.
Auschwitz and a handful of other concentration camps have come to symbolize the Nazi killing machine in the public consciousness. Likewise, the Nazi system for imprisoning Jewish families in hometown ghettos has become associated with a single site — the Warsaw Ghetto, famous for the 1943 uprising. But these sites, infamous though they are, represent only a minuscule fraction of the entire German network, the new research makes painfully clear.
Sugar is indeed toxic. It may not be the only problem with the Standard American Diet, but it’s fast becoming clear that it’s the major one.
A study published in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal PLoS One links increased consumption of sugar with increased rates of diabetes by examining the data on sugar availability and the rate of diabetes in 175 countries over the past decade. And after accounting for many other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates independent of rates of obesity.
In other words, according to this study, it’s not just obesity that can cause diabetes: sugar can cause it, too, irrespective of obesity. And obesity does not always lead to diabetes.
The study demonstrates this with the same level of confidence that linked cigarettes and lung cancer in the 1960s. As Rob Lustig, one of the study’s authors and a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, said to me, “You could not enact a real-world study that would be more conclusive than this one…”
The key point in the article is this: “Each 150 kilocalories/person/day increase in total calorie availability related to a 0.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence (not significant), whereas a 150 kilocalories/person/day rise in sugar availability (one 12-ounce can of soft drink) was associated with a 1.1 percent rise in diabetes prevalence.” Thus: for every 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverage introduced per person per day into a country’s food system, the rate of diabetes goes up 1 percent. (The study found no significant difference in results between those countries that rely more heavily on high-fructose corn syrup and those that rely primarily on cane sugar.)
This is as good (or bad) as it gets, the closest thing to causation and a smoking gun that we will see…And just as tobacco companies fought, ignored, lied and obfuscated in the ’60s (and, indeed, through the ’90s), the pushers of sugar will do the same now.
But as Lustig says, “This study is proof enough that sugar is toxic. Now it’s time to do something about it.”
RTFA for more details behind the conclusions.
A couple of obvious steps leading up to the Food and Drug Administration. the agency must re-evaluate the toxicity of sugar, concluding with a daily value. How much added sugar is safe?
Two weeks ago a coalition of scientists and health advocates – petitioned the F.D.A. to set safe limits for sugar consumption. The F.D.A. has not yet responded.