Is Gwyneth Paltrow’s pseudoscience winning? – Vox

On an alarmingly regular basis, Gwyneth Paltrows lifestyle company Goop publishes new morsels of health bullshit.

As the Goop website has emerged as a reliably laughable source of pseudoscience, a small army of journalists (myself included), doctors, researchers, and bloggers has evolved to pounce on Goops claptrap as soon as its out. We explain why jade eggs for vaginas, $30 sex dust, and body stickers that promote healing are misleading drivel. In the best cases, we use Goops bunk to teach people about how actual science works. Its practically a parasitic relationship.

Recently, though, Ive been asking myself what impact all this debunking is having.

The first time I wrote about Paltrows health bullshit, and her cleanse specialist Alejandro Junger, was four years ago, in 2013. Two years later, the Alberta professor Tim Caulfield published his book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?, about the dangerous influence celebrities have on our decision-making. CNN, the Guardian, and Stephen Colbert have all weighed in. Over the years, OB-GYN and blogger Jen Gunter has spilled so much digital ink on Paltrows health shenanigans that she got Goop to issue its first-ever direct response to critics last week.

In the time weve been debunking Paltrow, the stories and books pointing out the absurdity and potential harms of Goops claims have certainly been read and bought. And its clear they resonate with certain readers.

But the Goop empire has also grown and expanded in influence. So I set about to understand why and what impact, if any, critics have had on the brand.

Goop isnt a public company, so we dont know its revenue or how well its currently doing. But we do know that in 2016, Goop raised $15 million to $20 million in venture capital a sign of the businesss strength.

In 2017, the company also expanded in a few key ways: It held its first health summit and signed a deal for a new magazine with publisher Cond Nast, which will allow the brand to reach new and broader audiences.

Rather than being cowed by the debunkers, it seems Goop has been emboldened by us. In the statement released last week, it disparaged critics like Gunter and doubled down on Goops open-minded world view: that people need alternative solutions for the health problems that ail them, such as lectin-limited diets and jade eggs for vaginas solutions the medical establishment has been too narrow-minded to see:

Where we have found our primary place is in addressing people, women in particular, who are tired of feeling less-than-great, who are looking for solutions these women are not hypochondriacs, and they should not be dismissed or marginalized.

Harvard Business School brand analyst Jill Avery told me this response may have been a calculated move to strengthen their brand and draw their customers closer. The segment of consumers who engage with Goop are interested in alternative, homeopathic remedies, Avery said. So, when Dr. Gunter challenges Goop, she challenges the ideological foundation of its consumers as well.

Whats more, Avery said, the Goop response evokes themes from feminism, Eastern medicines and philosophies, and anti-establishment politics to incite [Paltrows] consumers to action: to make them feel as if they are under attack, to reassure them that their ideology will be supported by Goop, and to arm them with arguments to help them defend themselves.

To be sure, Goop has tapped into a real longing out there. Traditional medicine has failed people in many cases, and often lacks solutions for the most common health woes chronic pain, obesity, Alzheimers. You need not look any further than the raging opioid epidemic to find cases where medicine has also done more harm than good. But as my colleague Brian Resnick explained, that doesnt mean its okay to throw away the scientific paradigm and accept any junk claim that comes along:

Goop says its just asking questions about possible wellness solutions. … The problem is not that the Goop team isnt asking questions. Its that theyre not asking enough questions. Their curiosity should lead them to wonder, How can a piece of jade actually affect my energy levels? Whats the biological mechanism? Are there any studies on safety or efficacy at all? And if there arent, shouldnt we let readers know?

Still, wouldnt the negative press surrounding Goops health claims have made some dent in their business? Avery doesnt think so. The old adage no news is bad news comes to mind here, she said.

I also posed this question to Larry Light, author of Six Rules for Brand Revitalization and the chief executive of the brand consulting company Arcature. You cant attack a belief with facts, he said. He agreed the Goop debunking would only galvanize its fans and thought that Paltrows new summits and magazine would further expand the Goop cult and deepen its members beliefs.

All this doesnt mean, however, that calling out the Goopshit has been in vain.

We debunkers have probably helped inform and equip the public with sound health information, even if weve failed to convince Goop fans. This has been a fascinating chapter in the ongoing public debate about alternative medicine and health. But this episode is also an opportunity to think more about how to tilt the balance toward evidence-based thinking and away from Goopshit.

I recently asked a group of doctors and health researchers for their advice on the best practices for fighting fake news and misinformation, since these problems are nothing new in the medical world.

Some of these health professionals came around to a belief I am now wholeheartedly convinced of: The best way to stop bogus health claims from taking off is to teach people how to think critically about the information they receive from a very early age.

Researchers from Europe and Africa recently worked to develop curricula a cartoon-filled textbook, lessons plans on critical thinking skills aimed at schoolchildren. In 2016, they tested the materials in a big trial involving 15,000 schoolchildren from Ugandas central region.

The results of the trial were published in the Lancet in May, and showed a remarkable rate of success: Kids who were taught basic concepts of how to think critically about health claims massively outperformed children in a control group.

This work, from a group of evidence-minded research nerds, is the closest thing we have to a recipe book for how to prevent health bunk from spreading in the first place: Instead of trying to change peoples beliefs with facts, we need to teach them to call bullshit on pseudoscience drivel in the first place.

Im a journalist, not an educator or policymaker. But for the educators and policymakers reading this, please take a hard look at your school curricula and the critical thinking skills they offer. It may be too late to dent Paltrows brand among her acolytes, but you might be able to stop the next Goop train from taking off.

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Is Gwyneth Paltrow’s pseudoscience winning? – Vox

Digital river maps transform waterways into colorful art – CNN

(CNN) When you think about the world of cartography, antique sepia maps are likely the first images that come to mind. But nomadic digital cartographer Robert Szucs saw the potential to turn nature’s patterns into contemporary artwork.

Under his moniker Grasshopper Geography, the Hungarian artist uses open-source software and satellite data to paint the world’s rivers. As a result, China’s Yangtze swims in a sea of colors, while the Mississippi swirls in soft pastels.

Why rivers?

“Because they are amazing,” Szucs tells CNN. “I mean, look at my US river map — I created the design, the colors, the width of the lines. But I did not draw any of the lines.”

“It’s nature’s amazing work. I just found a way to show it in a new way, a fitting way.”

GIS artist Robert Szucs found a new way to showcase beautiful rivers around the world. (Robert Szucs/Grasshopper Geography)

Szuc’s river maps began as a creative outlet and an escape from everyday office drudgery.

A cartographer by profession, Szucs harnesses QGIS — an open-source geographic information system — to prepare the data and design the maps. He then loads up GIMP image editing software to fine-tune the lines, creating a dramatic visual effect.

“It’s all 100% scientific, based on satellite data and digital elevation models,” he says. “Every stream and river is placed on a scale of 1-10, based on the stream order (size).”

He spends days tinkering with the width of every single line and going through dozens of color iterations. There are more than 1,000 river basins or watersheds in most of his artwork — and the number of lines can reach over a million.

“I usually have an idea, an image in my head. Then I spend days and sometimes weeks trying to get there,” says Szucs.

“My river maps usually have hundreds, sometime more than a thousand river basins, but I want each one to be perfect.”

Szucs has since left his job and lived around the world to deepen his understanding on geography.(Robert Szucs/Grasshopper Geography)

Until about 18 months ago, 31-year-old Szucs spent his days as a geographic information systems (GIS) analyst cooped up in an office in the UK using digital data to create maps. And now? He’s since ditched the 9-5 entirely and hit the road, traveling and working around the world.

“Studying geography, and just moving around in those circles, makes you realize how many amazing places there are on this planet, so I’m following my big dream,” says Szucs. “I’m on a mission to live at least a couple of months on every continent, in every major cultural region.”

So far, he says he’s lived in four out of the seven continents, spending an average of three to six months in each location.

Szucs has worked for an archeologist on the tiny Caribbean island of St. Eustatius, with a marine biologist in Alaska, and in an orangutan conservation program in Indonesian Borneo.

“I want to get to know the people and their society in a place, learn how they live, how they think, how they approach problems, and learn from them,” he says. “With my map skills, I’ve been able to look for long lost forts, track whales and their food as they migrate, help lobby decision makers about the importance of rainforests and primate conservation.”

Technology has made new forms of cartography art possible. Here is a global population density heat map. (Robert Szucs/Grasshopper Geography)

With mobile phones and GPS, Szucs says that maps are more integral to our lives than ever — and yet people are rarely conscious of their impact.

“From crime maps for the police to income maps for insurance companies, whale distribution maps for an NGO or delicate works of art you can hang on your wall, cartography is everywhere,” says Szucs. “Try taking away your GPS and Google Maps — and see how your life would be.”

Today, the digital nature of cartography means that the field is constantly changing. And, as part of a digital generation, Szucs says it’s an exciting time for his industry.

“I have never made a map on paper. Technology made my work possible in the past couple of decades, and is expanding my possibilities drastically year by year,” he says.

“I mean, I was a GIS Analyst last year. Now I’m a GIS Artist. Who would have thought?”

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Digital river maps transform waterways into colorful art – CNN

Trump’s Twitter vs. The First Amendment – MediaFile – MediaFile

On Tuesday, July 11, the Knight First Amendment Institute filed a lawsuit in federal court against President Donald Trump over blocking individuals on his Twitter account.

The institute, a nonprofit affiliated with Columbia University, argues that Trumps Twitter account is a public forum under the First Amendment because the president and his staff use it to communicate.

According to Bloomberg Politics, the institute requested that the court deem viewpoint-based blocking by the presidents account unconstitutional, unblock the plaintiffs and pay the plaintiffs attorneys fees.

Regardless of your opinions on Trumps online behavior, the Tuesday lawsuit could have many social, corporate and journalistic implications.

Harassment vs. Freedom of Speech

According to a Pew Research Center survey, 41 percent of Americans have been personally subjected to online harassment, with as many as 18 percent of respondents claiming that they have been subject to more severe treatment, like sexual harassment, stalking or physical threats.

At a time when so many Americans claim to be so negatively affected by cyberbullying, it may be counterintuitive to set legal precedents that could take away users abilities to block harassers online in the future.

Although the lawsuit specifies that Trump should be penalized for viewpoint-based blocking as opposed to blocking in general, if these platforms are deemed as public forums, the precedent could easily be interpreted to protect users hateful speech in the future.

On the other hand, trying to curb viewpoint-based blocking may force users to interact with more diverse perspectives than usual, which could cultivate more interesting, productive discourse on the platform. Forcing opposing opinions to coexist in the same place could also help the general public better understand different political ideas.

Preventing people from censoring the opinions they do not want to see on their timeline could break ideological echo chambers that are currently prevalent on all social media platforms.

Impact on Private Companies

The decision could also affect how social media platforms monitor their users behavior and are allowed to conduct business in general.

Currently, social media applications are considered private institutions. Unlike public institutions, private institutions are not expected to uphold First Amendment protections.

However, if courts can treat Twitter as a public forum, social media companies could be forced to overhaul their terms of service to comply with government policy at the expense of their autonomy.

Is Social Media News?

In the lawsuit, the Knight First Amendment Institute considers Trumps personal Twitter account a public forum because of how the administration uses the social media site to spread news directly to followers.

In an interview with Fox and Friends, Trump defended his decision not to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner and said that he used Twitter so frequently because he feels that the media purposefully misrepresents him.

It allows me to give a message without necessarily having to go through people where Im giving them a message and theyre putting it down differently from what I mean, he said.

Despite this defense, Trumps Twitter use at times serves more as an excuse to take jabs at the media establishment rather than the president relaying substantive, unbiased policy accomplishments to the American people.

And although many famous political pundits and networks cited this in their defense of negative Trump coverage, the presidents comments on news networks reflect how many American conservatives feel.

It seems like common knowledge that the publics trust in media is at an all-time low, but according to a new Politico poll, people only marginally trust CNN (54 percent) more than the White House (52 percent) and Trump (46 percent).

The survey claims that significant percentages of voters mostly Republicans think many outlets are either not too credible or not credible at all, whereas left-leaning voters are more skeptical of the Trump administration and Congress.

Because of the tendency for right-leaning Americans to distrust them, many journalists publicly acknowledge that they should be trying to appeal more to conservatives. But reporting patterns speak louder than words.

Many conservatives cite what they perceive as abnormally critical coverage of the current administration when dismissing mainstream media coverage. According to a Shorenstein survey, 80 percent of Trump coverage was negative during his first 100 days of office.

This extreme amount of negative coverage may explain why many Americans are skeptical of the mainstream media, rendering the press intent meaningless. It also provides a rationalization for why many Americans are willing to accept the presidents social media statements as more legitimate than mainstream news coverage.

If a politicians posts on social media can legitimately be considered news, should the platform monitor content for accuracy, just like a news publication would? And if this is the case, it seems that social medias potential responsibility to purge false information falsifies the lawsuits assertion that social media sites ought not to allow viewpoint-based blocking.

No matter your opinions on the validity of the lawsuit, it most certainly brings up important debates central to the journalistic and social media communities in the Trump administration.

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Trump’s Twitter vs. The First Amendment – MediaFile – MediaFile

Liu Xiaobo: A Voice of Freedom – Cato Institute (blog)

The death of Liu Xiaobo from liver cancer on July 13, under guard at a hospital in Shenyang, marks the passing of a great defender of freedoma man who was willing to speak truth to power. As the lead signatory to Charter 08, which called for the rule of law and constitutional government, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison for inciting the subversion of state power. Before his sentencing in 2009, Liu stood before the court and declared, To block freedom of speech is to trample on human rights, to strangle humanity, and to suppress the truth. With proper treatment and freedom, Liu would have lived on to voice his support for a free society.

While Lius advocacy of limited government, democracy, and a free market for ideas won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Chinas leadership viewed him as a criminal and refused to allow him to travel to Oslo to receive the award. Instead, the prize was placed on an empty chair at the ceremony, a lasting symbol of Lius courage in the face of state suppression. Beijing also prevented liberal Mao Yushi, cofounder of the Unirule Institute, from attending the ceremony to honor Liu.


The mistreatment of Liu, and other human rights proponents, is a stark reminder that while the Middle Kingdom has made significant progress in liberalizing its economy, it has yet to liberate the minds of the Chinese people or its own political institutions.

The tension between freedom and state power threatens Chinas future. As former premier Wen Jiabao warned in a speech in August 2010, Without the safeguard of political reform, the fruits of economic reform would be lost. Later, in an interview with CNN in October, he held that freedom of speech is indispensable for any country.

Article 33, Section 3, of the PRCs Constitution holds that the State respects and protects human rights. Such language, added by the National Peoples Congress in 2004, encouraged liberals to test the waters, only to find that the reality did not match the rhetoric.

The Chinese Communist Party pays lip service to a free market in ideas, noting: There can never be an end to the need for the emancipation of individual thought (China Daily, November 16, 2013). However, Party doctrine strictly regulates that market. Consequently, under market socialism with Chinese characteristics, there is bound to be an ever-present tension between the individual and the state.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal (September 22, 2015), President Xi argued that freedom is the purpose of order, and order the guarantee of freedom. The real meaning of that statement is that Chinas ruling elite will not tolerate dissent: individuals will be free to communicate ideas, but only those consistent with the states current interpretation of socialist principles.

This socialist vision contrasts sharply with that of market liberalism, which holds that freedom is not the purpose of order; it is the essential means to an emergent or spontaneous order. In the terms of traditional Chinese Taoism, freedom is the source of order. Simply put, voluntary exchange based on the principle of freedom or nonintervention, which Lao Tzu called wu wei, expands the range of choices open to individuals.

Denying Chinas 1.4 billion people a free market in ideas has led to one of the lowest rankings in the World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders. In the 2016 report, China ranked 176 out of 180 countries, only a few notches above North Koreaand the situation appears to be getting worse. Under President Xi Jinpings consolidation of power in preparation for this years Party Congress, the websites of liberal think tanks, such as the Unirule Institute, have been shut down, and virtual private networks (VPNs) are being closed, preventing internet users from circumventing the Great Firewall.

Lius death is a tragic reminder that China is still an authoritarian regime whose leaders seek to hold onto power at the cost of the lives of those like Liu who seek only peace and harmony through limiting the power of government and safeguarding individual rights.

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Liu Xiaobo: A Voice of Freedom – Cato Institute (blog)

Elon Musk doesn’t think we’re prepared to face humanity’s biggest threat: Artificial intelligence – Washington Post

The subjugation of humanity by a race of super-smart, artificially intelligent beings is something that has been theorized by everyone from generations of moviemakers to New Zealands fourth-most-popular folk-parodyduo.

But the latestprophet of our cyber-fueled downfall must realize why people would be inclined to take his warnings with a grain of silicon. He is, after all, the same guy whos asking us to turn over control of our cars and our lives to a bunch of algorithms.

Elon Musk, who hopes that one day everyone will ride in a self-driving, electric-powered Tesla, told a group of governors Saturday that they needed to get on the ball and start regulating artificial intelligence, which he called a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.

No pressure.When pressed for better guidance, Musk said the government must get a better understanding of the latest achievements in artificial intelligence before its too late.

Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be, Musk said. AI is a fundamental risk to the future of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not. They were harmful to a set of individuals in society, but they were not harmful to individuals as a whole.

And then Musk outlined the ways AI could bring down our civilization, which may sound vaguely familiar.

He believes AI could start a war by doing fake news and spoofing email accounts and fake press releases, and just by manipulating information. Or, indeed as some companies already claim they can do by getting people to say anything that the machine wants.

Musk said hes usually against proactive regulation, which can impede innovation. But hes making an exception in the case of an AI-fueled Armageddon.

By the time we are reactive in regulation, its too late, he said, confessing that this is really like the scariest problem to me.

Hes been warning people about the problem for years, and hes even come up with a solution: Join forces with the computers.

He announced earlier this year that hes leading a company called Neuralink, which would devise ways to connect the human brain to computers, CNN reported.

In the decades to come, an Internet-connected brain plug-in would allow people to communicate without opening their mouthsand learn something as fast as it takes to download a book.

Other prominent figures in the world of science and technology have also warned against the dangers of artificial intelligence, including Microsoft founder Bill Gates and theoretical physicistStephen Hawking. But Musk concedes that people have been hesitant to accept their viewpoint.

I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see like robots going down the streets killing people, they dont know how to react because it seems so ethereal, he said. I think we should be really concerned about AI.

Still, even to the biggest skeptic, one sentence offered some food for thought: I have exposure to the very most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it.

Maybe Musk knows something the rest of us dont? He is, after all, a multibillionaire, capable of using obscene sums of money todevelop AI. Maybe in some Musk-funded lab, or on some secret SpaceX satellite, theres already a powerful AI on the verge of getting out.

Maybe its already loose.

Better safe than sorry:

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Elon Musk doesn’t think we’re prepared to face humanity’s biggest threat: Artificial intelligence – Washington Post

Governors skeptical after ‘pretty atrocious’ session with top Trump health officials – CNN

Vice President Mike Pence, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma made a frantic bid at the National Governors Association meeting Friday and Saturday to win over — or at least silence — skeptical GOP governors.

But their efforts left major questions unanswered, Republican and Democratic governors said.

And Pence’s speech Friday resulted in the vice president openly feuding with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican who didn’t attend the governors’ meeting.

Price and Verma had been dispatched to the meeting in Rhode Island to convince governors that their states could absorb the elimination of enhanced Medicaid funding for low-income adults who received coverage under the Affordable Care Act and the reduction of federal support for their overall Medicaid programs.

They urged governors to ignore Congressional Budget Office estimates that 15 million fewer people would be covered by Medicaid by 2026 and that $772 billion would be cut from the program, compared to current law, under a Senate Republican bill that would eliminate Obamacare’s expansion of the program.

Their argument: States would gain flexibility to overhaul their traditional Medicaid programs through block grants or per-enrollee caps, allowing them to save money that could be used to stave off losses of coverage.

But the closed-door session with Price and Verma on Saturday was “pretty atrocious,” said Connecticut Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy.

“They repeatedly pretended that the federal government saving hundreds of billions of dollars won’t translate to actual cuts,” he said. “I was told that I’ll innovate sufficiently to save them hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Republicans also emerged from the meeting saying they remain concerned about the long-term financial fallout of the bill.

“I think there’s disagreement on the outcomes and what that means and whether that is manageable,” said Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican whose state expanded Medicaid.

“It is a huge challenge for us in terms of communicating what the future is going to be like to our health care providers,” Hutchinson told CNN after the meeting. “That is the challenge for governors — we’re on the front lines here. … It’s the long term that people want to know about.”

Another key governor, Nevada Republican Brian Sandoval, told reporters afterward that he remained concerned about the bill’s elimination of funding for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which led 210,000 Nevadans to gain coverage. Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller has closely linked his vote to Sandoval’s position.

Malloy said he argued with Price and Verma when — after Verma had taken issue with the Congressional Budget Office forecasts of coverage losses — Price cited the CBO analysis to back up a separate point.

“They were incredibly inconsistent between themselves,” he said. “They support what they like from CBO, and they attack CBO. But at least the secretary was forced to admit that’s the only public generated analysis.”

Just before Price and Verma spoke Saturday morning, the consulting firm Avalere Health delivered a presentation that forecast cuts in federal Medicaid funding to the states of 27% to 36% by 2036 under the Senate legislation when compared to current law.

Some governors said that presentation left them less certain about the Trump administration’s claims that Medicaid funding would not decline.

“I think there’s still some confusion on numbers,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican. “And so, frankly, I wish we would have had more time this morning to ask questions. There’s still a lot of questions from Republicans and Democrats.”

Mead said there is a clear divide among GOP governors based on whether their states expanded Medicaid. Mead’s state did not. But he said he’s still struggling with a “state of flux” on Capitol Hill over health care.

At the center of the case Pence, Price and Verma made to governors was increased flexibility to make changes to their states’ Medicaid programs. Under the bills, states could opt to receive a lump sum of money — known as a block grant — to cover certain Medicaid recipients. They would receive more control over their programs in exchange.

The bill’s critics, however, say that cash-strapped states won’t be able to make up for the losses in federal funding even with the additional flexibility. States would be forced to cut enrollment, benefits or provider rates, they argue.

The Trump administration has pledged to aggressively grant states’ requests for waivers that would allow them to deviate from traditional Medicaid, and the House and Senate health care bills would give federal officials even further authority to grant those waivers, giving states additional freedom to craft their own programs using federal dollars.

That, Republican governors said, is good news. Hutchinson said Price and Verma gave governors “a number of new ideas that had not been considered before.”

Pence’s speech Friday drew a tepid reception from Republicans and Democrats in attendance.

He made a reference to Kasich, saying, “I suspect that he’s very troubled to know that in Ohio alone, nearly 60,000 disabled citizens are stuck on waiting lists, leaving them without the care they need for months or even years.”

That claim, though, is bogus, Kasich’s office said. The waiting lists are related to Medicaid’s home and community-based services and had nothing to do with Ohio’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

“The claim is not accurate. It’s been fact checked twice,” Kasich’s communications department said on Twitter, linking to fact-checks from The Los Angeles Times and the Columbus Dispatch.

At the same time Price and Verma were attempting to win over governors, the White House was circulating a new op-ed in The Washington Post in which Trump aides Marc Short and Brian Blase argued that Americans and lawmakers should give “little weight” to CBO projections that millions would lose coverage under the Senate GOP bill.

“The CBO’s methodology, which favors mandates over choice and competition, is fundamentally flawed,” the two argued. “As a result, its past predictions regarding health-care legislation have not borne much resemblance to reality. Its prediction about the Senate bill is unlikely to fare much better.”

CNN’s Tami Luhby contributed to this report.

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Governors skeptical after ‘pretty atrocious’ session with top Trump health officials – CNN

15 best beaches in Sydney – CNN

(CNN) When it comes to the best beaches in Sydney, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Around 100 beaches are speckled around the harbor and along the coast, both north and south of the Harbour Bridge. The only vex for travelers and locals can be picking the best one.

To make it easy, this list of the 15 best beaches in Sydney showcases our picks for the top of the top.

The lifestyle mecca of Manly, often referred to as “God’s Country.”

After alighting from the 30-minute ferry ride from Circular Quay, there’s a sign at Manly Wharf that reads: “Five miles from the city, a million miles from care.” Such is the lifestyle of “God’s Country.”

A cosmopolitan mall and promenade add to the sight of young, hip, beautiful and sun-kissed bodies. A day trip here is enough reason to consider relocating to the northern beaches. Whether it’s from the beach itself, or one of the nearby cafes, Manly is a pleasing place to catch a wave or simply to people-watch.

Manly Beach, South Steyne, Manly.

Just south of Bondi, Tamarama is a challenging swim, but a great view in more ways than one.

Known as “Glamarama” for the eye-catching locals sun-baking on the beach — it’s traditionally been a haven for the gay and modeling communities.

Parking near the beach is impossible, but it’s worth the fight because the beach is as beautiful as the locals adorning it. Being small and intimate adds to the feeling that this is an exclusive beach reserved for the lucky ones.

A word of warning, though: it’s also one of Sydney’s most dangerous beaches, with two rips coming in from either side of the bay. While this makes it a haven for surfers catching waves from the northern head adjoining nearby McKenzies Beach, it can be tough if you’re not a strong swimmer.

Tamarama Beach, Tamarama Marine Drive, Tamarama.

Iconic Bondi Beach, where cafes and restaurants are dotted around the district.

Australia’s most famous beach is more than 100 meters wide and stretches for well over a kilometer. This allows plenty of space for the overwhelming amount of tourists — and locals — that park themselves along the sands. On a good day every grain of sand is covered with bodies, with crowds swelling into Bondi Park and into nearby bars and cafes.

It’s sometimes criticized for being too big, too busy, and too touristy — but it’s also the hot spot for fashionable Sydneysiders and travelers and lots of fun.

Bondi Beach, Campbell Parade, Bondi.

The family-friendly Bronte Beach has the best barbecue spot in Sydney.

Bronte’s sea pool offers a protected ocean swim and is regarded as one of the best in Sydney — and much like beach culture itself, it’s free.

The nearby parkland has spacious barbecue areas for gatherings and is the most family-friendly beach in the eastern suburbs. On public holidays, the park becomes a sea of frenzy as parties take place.

Bronte’s east-facing beach picks up plenty of swell and swimming can be tricky at times thanks to the bulky headlands and underwater rocks. Waves can dump close to the shoreline.

But the vibes and views on offer make it ideal for those looking to laze around on the popular beach.

Bronte Beach, Bronte Marine Drive, Bronte.

Adjoining a national park, the harbor beach feels secluded.

It still calls itself the city’s “hidden secret” despite near-impossible parking and a crowded beach, but Nielsen Park is a little gem. The more adventurous can walk along the harbor foreshore through a national park to reach it.

It feels secluded, even though it’s packed, and has a quaint charm because it’s not touristy — you won’t find a backpacker in sight.

The views back across the bays to the city center are impressive. A net, which makes it a family picnic or snorkeling special, encloses the swimming area.

Nielsen Park, Greycliffe Avenue, Vaucluse.

On the north shore, Balmoral Beach is ideal for unwinding.

Balmoral, on the north shore’s Middle Harbor near Taronga Zoo, has an air of peaceful serenity. Life moves at a more leisurely pace here. If it’s loud and proud you’re after, this isn’t it.

What Balmoral does have in spades is impressive views. And its calmness makes it a great swimming spot for families.

Balmoral Beach, The Esplanade, Balmoral.

If it’s too busy at Manly Beach, just take a walk, swim or kayak to Shelly Beach.

Shelly Beach is just around the corner from Manly on the north head. If Manly gets too crowded — as is often the case — then this is your nearby destination.

Because it’s protected from the ocean swell, you’ll see lots of scuba divers under the water and paddle boarders gliding along the surface.

And they won’t be the only ones making the most of the ideal visibility and calmness of the water, with swimmers flocking to the beachfront as well.

Shelly Beach, Bower Street, Manly.

Parties at Milk Beach in summer strike a contrast with the abandoned beach in winter.

Located behind the heritage Strickland House on Vaucluse Road, this intimate and tucked-away beach gets pretty busy during the summer months, but is near deserted throughout the rest of the year.

A great spot to impress, Milk Beach is a little-known spot that still packs a mighty punch when it comes to commanding views of Sydney. And you’ll often see a lot of kayakers moored to take in a spot of lunch.

It’s also been the scene of some thumping parties during summer, so you could find yourself walking into a beachy dance floor.

Milk Beach, Vaucluse Road, Vaucluse.

A local secret: Wind down the coastal road to Bilgola Beach.

Descending down the windy roads that lead to Bilgola Beach from the headlands that surround it, you instantly feel you’re travelling a path not well trodden.

The rips crashing into the northern end of the beach create some great surf for “waxheads” living on the “insular peninsula.”

Bilgola isn’t mentioned much and is kept as a relative secret by locals. Quiet and unspoilt, the beach is a real in-the-know spot.

Bilgola Beach, The Serpentine, Avalon

Camp Cove is a place to catch a harbor sunset.

Close to the mouth of the harbor, Camp Cove has some of the most breathtaking views of Sydney. It’s also westward facing so gives east-coasters the chance to watch the sunset over water.

It’s close to a large park, children’s playground, pub and institutional fish and chips — what more do you need for a day on a harbor beach?

Views also open up in the opposite direction to the vastness of the Tasman Sea, in contrast to the city vista. Quiet, secluded, and quaint, the picturesque Camp Cove is a stunning swimming spot and the elevated promenade gives visitors a chance to languidly take it all in.

Camp Cove, Victoria Street, Watsons Bay.

A cliff view between Bronte and Clovelly.

Arguably one of the best options for snorkeling and exploring what lurks beneath the water’s surface, Clovelly is a small and tranquil beach that’s noted for its unique narrow bay between two rocky ridges.

Instead of a long sweeping beachfront, Clovelly is protected and therefore provides a tranquil swimming experience away from the hustle and bustle of its busy neighboring beaches.

It’s a good base for Gordons Bay, where you can check out snorkeling routes through the waters, or take a coastal walk to Bondi or Bronte.

Clovelly Beach, Donnellan Circuit, Clovelly.

Surfers stick on one end of North Narrabeen, while sun-seekers occupy the rest.

Boasting some of the best and most consistent surf, the beach attracts board enthusiasts from all over Sydney. Surfers have no qualms making the 25-kilometer trip north of the city center to get to the three-kilometer-long beach.

The northern end of the vast, sandy strip is protected from the northeasterly winds and is a surfer’s destination, while the rest of the vast beach is ideal for swimming.

North Narrabeen Beach, Ocean Street, North Narrabeen.

Just north of Manly, Freswater Beach is protected by its southern head.

Flanked by headlands on both sides, excellent surf is often produced at “Freshie.”

Perhaps fittingly, Freshwater is also the location where Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku first introduced surfing to Australia in 1915. The beach is only 350 meters long and is a popular destination for surfers. It’s also the perfect spot for a sunset body surf.

There’s also an eight-lane rock pool at the northern end.

Freshwater Beach, Moore Road, Freshwater.

In the Royal National Park, Garie Beach is worth the journey.

Located in the Royal National Park, 54 kilometers south of Sydney, Garie Beach isn’t one for beach-lovers without a car. The large beach is spectacular, though.

It’s well preserved and is the perfect spot for a relaxing day at the beach away from the city and the “same old” spots. The facilities are top-notch and there’s a great fishing spot off the east-facing rocks.

Garie Beach, Garie Beach Road, Royal National Park.

Palm Beach has a tropical feel on a sunny day.

Part of Sydney’s “insular peninsula” in the far north, it’s the scene of the long-running “Home and Away” TV series and endless celebrity spotting.

The great views take in a salt water lagoon, typical of beaches of the north side of the harbor.

On a sunny day, Palm Beach is a postcard-perfect sand destination — even though it’s 45 kilometers north of the city center. As with so many beach journeys in Sydney, it’s worth a drive as you’ll catch some breathtaking views along the way.

Palm Beach, Ocean Road, Palm Beach.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2011. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.

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15 best beaches in Sydney – CNN

Why is Oslo Airport called the world’s greenest? – CNN

(CNN) With air traffic increasing worldwide each year, finding ways to make aviation more environmentally friendly has become crucial.

And while aviation manufacturers are looking for greener ways to fly, from electric planes to biofuels, architects are aiming to make airports more environmentally friendly.

At first glance, it looks like a major challenge. After all, airports are mass transportation nodes that consume lots of energy. Yet, a combination of engineering smarts and the determination of some airport operators can go a long way.

The new airport combines style and environmental efficiency.

In line with the region’s reputation for environmental awareness, Scandinavia is home to what’s been called the most environmentally friendly airport in the world.

“We did not start this project with the goal of becoming the world’s most environmentally friendly airport,” he says.

The architects relied on a holistic approach to minimize the carbon footprint.

Not only do the terminal’s walls and windows aim to make maximum use of daylight — quite a challenge in the Scandinavian winter — natural materials such as locally sourced stone and wood from sustainably managed forests are used generously throughout the building.

“In addition to being a very energy-efficient material, wood gives the terminal a very Nordic identity,” says Susg. “We believe that after an era where most airports look the same, it is time to highlight those elements that can give travelers a sense of place, a sense that they are in a particular location, with its own local identity.”

Not only is this new terminal green, it has doubled the capacity of Norway’s capital airport overnight.

One way it makes the most out of local conditions is its snow-based cooling system. During winter, snow is collected and stored in a depot and covered by sawdust for insulation.

Come summer, the meltwater is used to cool down the terminal building, reducing the amount of energy consumption during peak hours. In winter, the airport makes use of natural thermal energy for heating.

When it comes to waste, the terminal project achieved a sorting grade of 91%, which means that only 9% of discarded construction materials is classified as “general waste.” The rest is sorted and handled separately.

Another remarkable feature of the new design — testament to its efficient use of the space — is the fact that despite the airport increasing in size, the maximum walking time to gates has remained the same.

Airport buses and vehicles will also switch to renewable fuels or electricity and the airport operator plans to engage in market-based carbon compensation schemes.

Other airports are following in the footsteps of Oslo.

Despite their pioneering roles, the Nordics are hardly alone in the quest to make airports more sustainable.

At the Delhi airport, energy and water is conserved by maximizing natural light, harvesting rainfall, installing an on-site solar power plant and sewage treatment plant, and having an integrated building management system to optimize operations.

In the Galapagos, a particularly environmentally sensitive location, the airport constructed 75% of its infrastructure from recycled materials. It uses its own desalination plant for fresh water and is almost 100% powered by wind and solar energy.

“Airports require large areas of land and are hubs of energy use, water use, waste and emissions, so when we talk about sustainability and airports, we’re not just talking about the environment.

“We’re also talking about the significant financial and human health benefits associated with greening these spaces,” explains Ramanujam.

Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa Airport is introducing a large solar plant on the airport grounds.

“Until recently most of the environmental initiatives in the airport industry revolved around two key issues: emissions and noise,” he says.

“These, of course, remain top priorities, but what we are seeing now is a more holistic approach where airport operators are looking at the energy efficiency of the terminals, waste and water management and myriad other aspects.”

While we await the era of electric planes, right now it seems that the key to greener airports isn’t in a single game-changing innovation, but in the accumulation of small positive changes around the world.

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Why is Oslo Airport called the world’s greenest? – CNN

Pence touts GOP health care bill to skeptical governors – CNN

Pence is essentially President Donald Trump’s envoy to a skeptical group of governors — including Republicans Brian Sandoval of Nevada and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts — who are against the Senate bill, citing its damage to the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act.

“I understand and appreciate, as the President does, the concerns that many of you have as we talk about Medicaid in the future going forward. Our administration’s paid very close attention to this issue,” Pence told about 30 governors gathered Friday for the National Governors Association’s summer meeting in Rhode Island.

“Let me be clear: President Trump and I believe the Senate health care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society, and this bill puts this vital American program on a path to long-term sustainability,” he said, without noting that the bill also cuts Medicaid spending from current projections.

“Our administration wants you to innovate,” Pence said. “Now is the time to usher in a new era of state-based innovation.”

The vice president touted the Republican health care bill’s option to block grant Medicaid to the states, and increased funding for combating opioid abuse in the revamped Senate bill.

Pence launched into the topic of health care with a broad — and tepidly received — attack on Obamacare.

“President Donald Trump is going to lead this Congress to rescue the American people from the collapsing policies of Obamacare,” Pence said.

“As a former governor myself, I know just how important health care is to each and every one of you as you lead your state,” he said. “The simple truth, though, is that Obamacare is imploding all across America, and working families and small businesses are paying the price every day.”

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the NGA chairman, got in a dig at Pence while introducing the vice president, noting that he had expanded Medicaid while governor of Indiana.

Pence did so through a version of the program that includes conservative tweaks designed by now-Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, who has been working with senators in support of the GOP bill.

“He showed true backbone in Indiana when he expanded Medicaid for his citizens,” McAuliffe said.

It was a clear shot at the Trump administration’s health care push: Federal funding for that Medicaid expansion would be eliminated if Trump and Pence are successful.

Pence thanked McAuliffe for “that warm introduction.”

Then he seized on that jab, noting that he and Verma crafted a plan locally but ran into bureaucratic roadblocks getting former President Barack Obama’s administration to sign off on a waiver for the program.

He said governors wouldn’t encounter such obstacles with the Trump administration, promising governors more flexibility to implement their own visions.

“And we’re going to fight to make that a reality in Washington, D.C. President Trump is dedicated to getting the federal government out of your way,” Pence said.

Pence’s most important sales job was aimed at one person: Nevada Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Dean Heller, the state’s Republican senator, has closely tied his vote on health care to Sandoval’s stance. And Sandoval has been sharply critical of the bill, warning that it would knock 210,000 Nevadans off of Medicaid.

Pence met individually on Friday with Sandoval and four other Republican governors, including Arizona’s Doug Ducey, Tennessee’s Bill Haslam, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Arkansas’ Asa Hutchinson.

HHS Secretary Tom Price and Verma were on hand for the meetings, which came after his afternoon speech.

A source familiar with the Sandoval discussion described it as a “good discussion” and “productive,” though it’s not clear Pence swayed Sandoval.

On Thursday night, Sandoval sounded unwilling to back any GOP effort that would withdraw funding for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

“I’m greatly concerned and very protective of the expansion population,” Sandoval told CNN. “They are living healthier and happier lives as a result of their receiving coverage, and for them to lose that at this point would be very hurtful for them. And it’s about people — this is about people. And 210,000 people in my state.”

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Pence touts GOP health care bill to skeptical governors – CNN

Maddow Fake NSA Documents Alleging Trump-Russ | The Daily Caller

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow gave a heads up to other news organizations on Thursday after she was sent what she believes are faked National Security Agency documents alleging collusion between a member of the Trump campaign and Russian government.

Somebody, for some reason, appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians in their attack in the election, Maddow said in a lengthy segment on her show.

She suggested that the unidentified muckraker who sent her the fake documents hopes to undermine news organizations in general and deflate the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, which has been going on for nearly a year.

This is news, because: why is someone shopping a forged document of this kind to news organizations covering the Trump-Russia affair? Maddow asked.

On June 7, an unidentified person sent documents to an online tip line for Maddows show, she said.

That was two days after The Intercept published legitimate NSA documents that were stolen by Reality Winner, a contractor for the agency.

Maddow said that the documents sent to her show appeared to have used The Intercepts published documents as a template. Secret ID markings on The Intercept reports appeared on the documents passed to Maddow.


She said that metadata from the set of documents sent to her show preceded the publication of the documents published in The Intercept. Maddow suggested that it was possible that whoever sent her the forgeries had access to The Intercept documents. But she also theorized that whoever sent her the fake documents could have changed the metadata somehow.

The documents Maddow received appeared legitimate at first glance, she said, butseveral clues suggested that they were forgeries.

Typos and spacing issues raised eyebrows, but it was secret markings on the documents as well as their contents that convinced Maddow and her staff that the records were fakes.

But Maddow said that that the big red flag for her and her team was that the document she was given named an American citizen a specific person from the Trump campaign who allegedly cooperated with the Russians during the presidential campaign.

We believe that a U.S. citizens name would not appear in a document like this, asserted Maddow, who said that her team consulted national security experts on the matter.

And so, heads up everybody, Maddow warned.

The host pointed to two recent retractions one at CNN and the other at Vice News and suggested that they were the result of a similar scheme to undermine news outlets covering Trump.

In the case of CNN, three reporters were fired after the network retracted an article alleging that Trump transition team official Anthony Scaramucci was under investigation for ties to a Russian investment fund.

CNN said that the three reporters were fired because of shortcomings in their reporting process, but the network has been tight-lipped about what those shortcomings were.

Vice retracted two articles about a Trump robot display at Disney World.

One way to stab in the heart aggressive American reporting on [the subject of Trump-Russia collusion] is to lay traps for American journalists who are reporting on it, said Maddow.

And then after the fact blow that reporting up. You then hurt the credibility of that news organization. You also cast a shadow over any similar reporting in the futureeven if its true.

Maddow did not provide details about who sent her team the faked NSA documents.

But she concluded her segment saying, We dont know whos doing it, but were working on it.

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Maddow Fake NSA Documents Alleging Trump-Russ | The Daily Caller

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NASA shows us Jupiter as we’ve never seen it before – New York Post

These photos are out of this world!

NASA just released new photos of Jupiter that show the closest look weve ever had of the planets Great Red Spot.

The snaps, taken from the space agencys Juno space probe and released Wednesday, captured the gas giants planet-sized storm from 5,600 miles away, CNN reports.

Jupiters mysterious Great Red Spot is probably the best-known feature of Jupiter, said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, ahead of the probes deep dive.

This monumental storm has raged on the solar systems biggest planet for centuries. Now, Juno and her cloud-penetrating science instruments will dive in to see how deep the roots of this storm go, and help us understand how this giant storm works and what makes it so special.

Juno blasted off from Earth in 2011 and has been orbiting the far-off planet for one Jupiter year, racking up 71 million miles in the process, according to NASA.

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NASA shows us Jupiter as we’ve never seen it before – New York Post

Gov. Brian Sandoval: ‘Great concern’ over new Senate GOP health care bill – CNN

“I’m greatly concerned and very protective of the expansion population. They are living healthier and happier lives as a result of their receiving coverage, and for them to lose that at this point would be very hurtful for them. And it’s about people — this is about people. And 210,000 people in my state,” the Nevada Republican told CNN at the National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island.

He said he has not yet reviewed the bill, but “generally, my understanding is the bill isn’t that much different than its previous iteration.”

Sandoval said he’s spoken personally with Pence, Price and Verma in recent weeks — but that they haven’t moved him off his position that the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion included in former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act would be devastating for the 210,000 Nevadans who have gained coverage.

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Gov. Brian Sandoval: ‘Great concern’ over new Senate GOP health care bill – CNN

The First Amendment and Government Employees

[11/8/10 Update: Andrew Shirvell has been fired for misuse of of state resources, conduct not protected by the First Amendment, and false statements made during the internal investigation of the matter.]

What are the limits of First Amendment protection for government employees? Consider this somewhat surreal story making recent headlines.

Andrew Shirvell is an assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan. He is also an anti-gay activist who is appalled that the recently elected student body president of the University of Michigan, Shirvells alma mater, is openly gay. Shirvellcomplained aboutthe student on a blog created specifically for that purpose.His many postings includeda comment that the student is Satans representative on the Student Assemblyanda picture of the student with a Nazi swastika superimposed on his face.

Once news of Shirvells blog and his in-person hounding of the gay student leader on campus became widely known, many peopleincluding the governor of Michigancalled on state attorney general Mike Cox to fire Shirvell. Cox, on whose campaign Shirvell worked, refused. Cox stated that although Shirvell has been acting like a bully and his behavior is immature, his conduct is after-hours and protected by the First Amendment.

Is he right? Does the First Amendment protect this type of conduct by a government lawyer?

With all due respect to Attorney General Cox, I think hes dead wrong on the constitutional issue.

All government employees voluntarily restrict their ability to exercise free speech when they accept public employment. In fact, for most of the countrys history government employees had no First Amendment rights. Oliver Wendell Holmes summed up that view in 1892 when he observed, A policeman may have the constitutional right to talk politics, but he has no constitutional right to be a policeman.

Thankfully for us government employees, Holmes view no longer controls. As a result of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, most notably Pickering v. Bd. of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968), Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983), and Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), its now generally accepted that individuals do not relinquish all of their First Amendment rights simply because they are employed by the government. But the speech in question needs to clear several tests before First Amendment protections apply.

First, the speech must touch on a matter of public concern. Complaints about your boss or your working conditions dont implicate matters of public concern and therefore arent protected by the First Amendment. Comments about issues relating to public safety, public finances and similar big picture issues do justify constitutional protection.

Second, the speech must fall outside of the employees job duties. In other words, your boss has the right to tell you how to conduct your job and what to say while doing it. For example, if your job as general counsel to a state agency involves all matters of legal compliance, the First Amendment would offer no protection if you were fired for repeated complaints to your boss about alleged public record law violations within the agency.

Third, the employees interest in free expression must outweigh the governments interest in the efficient and effective provision of services. Often this balancing test turns on when, where, and how the speech was made. Speech made in the office during work hours can be much more disruptive to the provision of government services than speech made at home on the weekend. But who makes the speech is even more important. The more an employee is involved with policy issues, the more likely that the governments interests in controlling that employees speech will prevail. When senior government employees make statements that contradict official government policy, First Amendment protection is almost non-existent.

Applying these three tests to Andrew Shirvells blog, I think he could be fired without constitutional concern.

First, the public concern test. I very much doubt that the sexual orientation of a college student body president is a matter of public concern. But Shirvell claims that the students radical homosexual agenda is a political issue. Lets give Shirvell the benefit of the doubt and assume that at least some of hiscomments touch upon a matter of public concern.

Second, the job duty test. It is certainly not part of Shirvells job as an assistant attorney general to blog about the sexual orientation of college students, which means the speech could qualify for First Amendment protection.

Third, the balancing of the interests. Here is where I think Shirvells constitutional protections evaporate. As Cox points out, Shirvell made the speech on his own time. But that fact isnt dispositive. I think the fact that these anti-gay comments were uttered by an assistant attorney general who is the legal representative of the state is dispositive. The governments interest in controlling the speech of its legal representatives is extremely high. I think that interest surely trumps Shirvells interest in informing the world that gay people arent fit to lead the University of Michigan student body. If so, then the First Amendment would not protect Shirvells blog postings.

That constitutional conclusion doesnt end the inquiry, however. Michigan, like North Carolina, mandates that some of its public employeescan be disciplined or fired only for just cause. That term is notoriously difficult to define, but in North Carolina unacceptable personal conduct with some connection tothe publicemployees jobcan justify an adverse employment action. For example, a highway patrol officer could be fired for aDUI conviction.

Attorney General Cox himself described Shirvells behavior as immature, bullying, and demonstrating poor judgment, a conclusion which seems to support a just-cause termination for one of the states legal representatives. And Shirvells conduct clearly calls into question hiswillingness to represent all ofMichigans citizens, be they gay, straight or otherwise. That fact alone could justify his termination.

Shirvell is also a lawyer, which means he is subject to ethical constraints on his conduct beyond that applicable to other government employees. Legal ethics prohibit conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice, a term the American Bar Association defines to include racist and discriminatory conduct. Shirvells postings that equate gays with Nazis and Satanseeminglywouldconstitute prohibited conduct under the ABAs definition.Attorneys are generally not disciplined for obnoxious speech, but given Shirvells role as a legal representative of the people his conduct couldbean exception.

Clickhere for a more detailed analysis of these First Amendment issues and here for Shirvells appearance on CNN.

Continued here:

The First Amendment and Government Employees

Pundit Calls Proverbs the "Most Republican Book in the Bible" Because It Preaches "Social Darwinism" – Independent Women’s Forum…

July 11 2017

“Proverbs is probably the most Republican book of the entire Bible.”

I had to laugh when I read the above quote, in an article in Politico by Yale Hebrew Bible professor Joel S. Baden.

Baden was pointing to Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s propensity for tweeting quotations from the biblical book of aphorisms traditionally attributed to King Solomon. Apparently Rubio tweeted on June 26: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Proverbs 26:11. I don’t know exactly what Rubio was referring to: Maybe that Trump vs. CNN wrestling video that CNN just can’t stop making itself the butt of jokes over.

Plus, Baden writes:

Just this past July 5, Rubio tweeted, They will die from lack of discipline, lost because of their great folly. Proverbs 5:23. Of course, its not all diligence and righteousnessin Proverbs, faith in God, too, will keep you away from things like poverty and failure. On June 16, Rubio tweeted, Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

What was Rubio talking about this time? Repealing Obamacare?

At any rate, Baden opines:

Some of the statements in Proverbs look strikingly similar to those made by modern-day conservative policymakers. Take, for example, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who, arguing that poorer people should pay more for health care, recently said, Those people who lead good lives, theyre healthy. Its not quite a direct quote from Proverbs, but its not too far from these: The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry (Proverbs10:3) and A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich (Proverbs 10:4).

According to Baden, the Book of Proverbs presents a “harsh, almost social Darwinist worldview”–which obviously fits every Republican you’ve ever met to a T.

This made me wonder: If Proverbs is the most Republican book in the Bible, what’s the most Democratic book? I came up with several candidates:

1. The Book of Genesis. Remember this passage (Genesis 27:41), when Esau erupts in rage because his father, Isaac, has given his planned inheritance to his younger brother, Jacob? And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.”

Sounds f like the way liberal media pundits’ heads exploded on the night of Nov. 8 when Donad Trump defeated their anointed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. (Of course we know they don’t want to literally slay Trump, but they sure are loving on that Julius Caesar prduction in Central Park.)

2. The Book of Ruth. Here’s a passage (Ruth 2:1-3) that should warm Dem hearts: ‘And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband’s, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said unto Naomi, Let me now go to the field, and glean ears of corn after him in whose sight I shall find grace. And she said unto her, Go, my daughter. And she went, and came, and gleaned in the field after the reapers.”

Going after the rich to grab what you can via tax hikes.

3. The First Book of Samuel: “Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth” (1 Samuel 17:49.

Again, what the Dems would like to do to Trump (metaphorically, of course).

4. The Acts of the Apostles. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need (Acts 2:44-45).

Socialism! Need I say more?

5. The Book of Revelation. “So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 17:3)

I think the Bible is talking about Sarah Palin here.

So see? If the Book of Proverbs is the most Republican book in the Bible, all you have to do is vote for one of the above, Democrats, and you’ll have your own book!

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Pundit Calls Proverbs the "Most Republican Book in the Bible" Because It Preaches "Social Darwinism" – Independent Women’s Forum…

Online Anonymity Is Not The Same Thing As Free Speech – WBUR

wbur Commentary (Thom/ Unsplash)

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As all the world knows by now, last week our president prepared for his big meeting with Vladimir Putin by receiving round-the-clock briefings on the history of U.S.-Russian relations, as well as the recent accords of the G-20.


Actually, he prepared by tweeting out a video of himself pretend-assaulting a man with a CNN logo superimposed over his head.

The obvious question here is why the leader of the free world or any adult living outside his parents basement would do such a thing. But we all know who Donald Trump is at this point. Expecting him to go more than a few days without trolling is like expecting a leech to go vegetarian.

Whats been more interesting to watch is the fallout, and in particular, the way that Trumps fellowinternet trolls have descended into self-pity at the first sign of public exposure.

As one might expect, media outlets did not take kindly to Trumps tweet, and CNN soon tracked down the man who created the video and posted it on a Reddit site devoted to Trump worship.

The Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to free speech. It doesnt guarantee anyone the right to spew hate speech onlineanonymously.

Like many of the folks who hang out on such sites, the Anonymous Poster (who Ill refer to as AP, because his handle is too profane to print) has a long history of posting racist vitriol.

Here are just a few examples of what AP posted:

*A photo of the gate to a concentration camp with the caption, Solved the refugee problem in Europe.

*Photos of dozens of CNN staffers marked with Stars of David.

*A photo of a Koran being burned with the caption, Dont mind me just posting an image to offend Islam.

*Repeated uses of the N-word in posts such as, I just like dancing when n—— are getting beat down by the cops and FBI stats dont lie n—–. You hood rats account for more that [sic] 50 percent of the murder, rape, robbery, and assault in the USA.

(Fun fact: This last outburst is based on a bogus stat our president tweeted out during the campaign. Classy!)

When Trump first posted the CNN video, AP proudly crowed, Holy s—!! I wake up and have my morning coffee and who retweets my s—post but the MAGA EMPORER [sic] himself!!! I am honored!!

But within a day, AP had issued a long apology, claiming that he wasnt a racist and never meant any of the horrible things he posted online.

So what might explain this sudden change of heart?

Heres a hint: CNN figured out APs true identity and contacted him by email. In other words, he was afraid of being exposed.

Conservative media outlets immediately accused CNN of threatening to blackmail AP by exposing his identity. To which I would respond: nonsense.

The Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to free speech. It doesnt guarantee anyone the right to spew hate speech online anonymously.

Much of the reason the internet has become a cesspool of cruel rhetoric is because folks like AP have weaponized anonymity. They use the internet to say whatever they want without having to face the consequences. Theyve turned the information superhighway into a playground full of coward-bullies wearing masks.

Like Trump, they love to dish out abuse. And like Trump, the moment anyone tries to hold them accountable, theypitch a fit.

They also threatenchildren. Yes, a group of white supremacists responded to the CNN report on AP by posting information about CNN employees, and threatening the kids of CNN employees unless they fired the lead reporter.

What these trolls really want is a safe space to spew hate.

So thats what weve come to: Racists who threaten innocent kids online are demanding digital hoods to protect them from public disapproval. Perhaps the federal government should provide them guns and ammo, as well? Would that Make America Great Again?

We now have a president with a history of tweeting and retweeting material from white nationalist websites. He also has a long history of inciting violence against protesters, the media and other perceived enemies.

Under his watch, hate crimes have predictably surged. Journalists who work to expose the sources of hate speech routinely receive death threats from Trumps racist army all of them anonymous, naturally.

What these trolls really want is a safe space to spew hate. Forcing them to stand behind their words is the least a civilized society can do.

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Steve Almond Cognoscenti contributor Steve Almond is the author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction. He writes Cog’s advice column, #HeavyMeddle, and is the co-host of Dear Sugar Radio.



Online Anonymity Is Not The Same Thing As Free Speech – WBUR

EDITORIAL, July 11: NC House wisely sinks constitutional convention –

StarNews Editorial Board

North Carolina dodged a bullet the other day when state House members torpedoed a proposal to call a national convention to amend the Constitution.

Actually, it probably dodged a land mine. It’s scary that the state Senate actually approved the notion.

First a quick civics lesson: According to Article V, there are two ways to amend the Constitution. First, an amendment has to pass both houses of Congress by a two-thirds vote, then be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Obviously, this takes a long time. After the 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights were adopted early in the nation’s history, only 27 amendments have been ratified in 128 years, and one of these (Prohibition) was later repealed.

The other, presumably quicker, version is to call a national convention, sort of like the one that met in Philadelphia in 1787. It takes a vote of two-thirds of the states to call such a convention, and there’s an active move afoot to get one going.

Supporters generally say they want the convention to write a balanced-budget amendment. Other ideas are floating out there, too, including term limits for Congress, refiguring how federal judges are chosen or allowing a vote of state legislatures to override Supreme Court rulings.

As New Hanover County’s Rep. Deb Butler wisely pointed out, this is a dangerous proposition — a bit like putting an Uzi in the hands of a toddler with a tantrum.

Feelings are high right now, and an angry faction could do things that the rest of us will regret for a long, long time.

Back in the 1950s Red Scare, for instance, John Wayne and others wanted to repeal parts of the Fifth Amendment so it would be easier to jail Communists.

These days, with lots of folks angry at “The Media,” someone’s likely to take a sledgehammer to the freedom of speech and press. You don’t have to like the StarNews or CNN to see that’s a bad idea; a few years from now, a liberal might be elected president again, and Fox News could be the target.

Supporters say the states could put limits on their convention delegates. Ohio, for example, approved a convention only for the purpose of the balanced-budget amendment.

Many legal scholars, however, don’t think that would fly. The states put plenty of limits on their delegates to the 1787 Convention — most of which were flatly ignored. That convention threw out the Articles of Confederation and wrote a whole new basic law of the land.

Article V, moreover, makes no provision on how many delegates each state gets, or how delegates could be elected. A minority rump could theoretically push major changes against the wishes of most of the people.

Those old guys in wigs, back in the 1700s, knew what they were doing. Changing our basic rules, including those dealing with our liberties, should be a long, drawn-out process. A convention is just too risky.

Excerpt from:

EDITORIAL, July 11: NC House wisely sinks constitutional convention –

80 arrested on Capitol Hill after health care protests – CNN

Story highlights

Protesters demonstrated in 13 different locations in House and Senate office buildings, according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki. As of Monday afternoon, Capitol Police had arrested 80 protesters 21 in House office buildings and 59 in Senate buildings and charged them with the misdemeanor of “Crowding, Obstructing, or Incommoding,” Malecki said.

Sens. Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, Rob Portman and Lamar Alexander, all Republicans, had protesters either inside or in the vicinity of their offices, holding signs and chanting their opposition, including “Save our lives, kill the bill” and “Come out and talk to us.”

Some of the protesters outside of Cruz’s office lay down on the ground, blocking foot traffic, forcing Capitol Police officers to carry them down the hall.

Cruz and Portman both expressed opposition to the Senate’s health care bill before leaving for the July 4 recess, though Cruz had recommended and GOP leadership was considering an amendment to the current legislation.

“One of the great things about freedom in America is even people who disagree can speak out, and there is a small group of people on the left who, right now, are very angry,” the Texas senator said last week. “We can engage in cordial and civil debate — that’s how democracy works and that’s how it’s meant to work.”

CNN’s Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Read more:

80 arrested on Capitol Hill after health care protests – CNN

Glenn Greenwald: CNN Engaged In ‘Corporate Bullying And Creepy Censorship’ On Pro-Trump Reddit Story – Townhall

CNN is still licking their wounds after a rather disastrous couple of weeks, where a shoddy Russia-Trump story led to three staffers resigning, a Project Veritas investigation exposed that the network’s producers peddled the Russia story for ratings, and what came off as a wholly inappropriate veiled threat against an anonymous Reddit user who created a Trump WWE video, which the president tweeted before the Fourth of July Holiday. The video shows Trump beating up WWEs Vince McMahon, whose face has been superimposed with the CNN logo. The media went apoplectic as an attack against the press; it wasnt. This spurred the network’s reporters to find the user and pretty much threaten to dox him if he continues to post things CNN doesnt like. Yet, before we get to that, lets revisit the Russia-Trump story that had to be retracted, along with The Intercepts Glenn Greenwald torching the media for their repeated trip ups in covering this story.

Three prominent CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under congressional investigation. That article like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims.


Several factors compound CNNs embarrassment here. To begin with, CNNs story was first debunked by an article in Sputnik News, which explained that the investment fund documented several factual inaccuracies in the report (including that the fund is not even part of the Russian bank, Vnesheconombank, that is under investigation), and by Breitbart, which cited numerous other factual inaccuracies.

And this episode follows an embarrassing correction CNN was forced to issue earlier this month when several of its highest-profile on-air personalities asserted based on anonymous sources that James Comey, in his congressional testimony, was going to deny Trumps claim that the FBI director assured him he was not the target of any investigation.

Greenwald then lays into other outlets for peddling shoddy stories, like the Russian hacking into the Vermont power grid, the piece about an anonymous group identifying sites that peddled disinformation stories planted by Russia, the server in Trump Tower thats used to communicate with a Russian bank, and the claim that Wikileaks Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin are best friendsall of which fell apart. Yet, the media wonders why conservatives are using them for punching bags; its because theyre on a witch-hunt against this president. Not only that, theyre sucking at it. It only gives the Trump administration more ammunition and more for his supporters to relish when he delivers an uppercut to the liberal news media, who for months could not contain their outrage that he beat her majesty, Hillary Rodham Clinton. He noted that no one is perfect, and that we all make mistakes. Townhall (and by Townhall, I mean myselfmea culpa) posted about the Vermont grid story, albeit a short blurb that really didnt go into a deep dive, but it was not correct and we added a correction. At the same time, were not in the same mold as other outlets concerning the Russian threat. To this day, there is zero evidence that Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians to tilt the election.

What is most notable about these episodes is that they all go in the same direction: hyping and exaggerating the threat posed by the Kremlin. All media outlets will make mistakes; that is to be expected. But when all of the mistakes are devoted to the same rhetorical theme, and when they all end up advancing the same narrative goal, it seems clear that they are not the byproduct of mere garden-variety journalistic mistakes.


The importance of this journalistic malfeasance when it comes to Russia, a nuclear-armed power, cannot be overstated. This is the story that has dominated U.S. politics for more than a year. Ratcheting up tensions between these two historically hostile powers is incredibly inflammatory and dangerous. All kinds of claims, no matter how little evidence there is to support them, have flooded U.S. political discourse and have been treated as proven fact.

And thats all independent of how journalistic recklessness fuels, and gives credence to, the Trump administrations campaign to discredit journalism generally.

That story was posted on June 27. It took less than a week for CNN to get another face full of buckshot when they decided to search for the Reddit user that created the video of Trump beating up CNN right before the Fourth of July holiday. The user is not someone to be defended aggressively. Hes admitted to posting racist and anti-Semitic material on the site. Hes apologized, but heres where things got controversial [emphasis mine]:

CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

And of course, Greenwald had a response:

There is something self-evidently creepy, bullying, and heavy-handed about a large news organization publicly announcing that it will expose someones identity if he ever again publishes content on the internet that the network deems inappropriate or objectionable. Whether it was CNNs intent or not, the article makes it appear as if CNN will be monitoring this citizens online writing, and will punish him with exposure if he writes something the network dislikes.


Moreover, if this persons name is newsworthy on the ground that racists or others who post inflammatory content should be publicly exposed and vilified does it matter if he expressed what CNN executives regard as sufficient remorse? And if his name is not newsworthy, then why should CNN be threatening to reveal it in the event that he makes future utterances that the network dislikes?

If youre someone who believes that media corporations should expose the identity even of random, anonymous internet users who express anti-Semitic or racist views, then you should be prepared to identify the full list of views that merit similar treatment. Should anyone who supports Trump have their identity exposed? Those who oppose marriage equality? Those with views deemed sexist? Those who advocate communism? Are you comfortable with having corporate media executives decide which views merit public exposure?

Whatever else is true, CNN is a massive media corporation that is owned by an even larger corporation. It has virtually unlimited resources. We should cheer when those resources are brought to bear to investigate those who exercise great political and economic power. But when they are used to threaten and punish a random, obscure citizen who has criticized the network no matter how objectionable his views might be it resembles corporate bullying and creepy censorship more than actual journalism.

The point with all of this is that its not just conservative media that are complaining about CNN and others tripping up. Greenwald is no fan of Donald Trump, conservatives, or our intelligence community – specifically the CIA – but hes also known for keeping both sides honest. In February, he criticized the media for forgetting that the Obama administration was heavy handed with the press, especially when it came to whistleblowers. He also said what the Deep State is doing to the Trump White House by intentionally leaking highly sensitive information is a prescription for the destruction of democracy.”

The Intercept is a site where leakers to come forward with information that exposes government corruption or malfeasance. Its the safe space for leakers, but its another thing to leak classified material in the hopes of hamstringing an administration from governing because youre upset about an election result. Earlier this year, he told Amy Goodman of the left wing Democracy Now that the actions of the Deep State are akin to a soft coup as well:

Even if youre somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, theres a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. Theyre barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it.

Vox Media, which isnt a right wing rag either, also were appalled by CNNs apparent threat are highly unethical:

A plain reading of CNNs article, however, contradicts what the network and Kaczynski are saying. If CNN really intended to withhold HanA**holeSolos information regardless of what he did, then why didnt the news organization say it was withholding his private information simply because hes a private citizen? Why did it go on to add all the conditions about his behavior? And why did it say it could release the private information with an explicit condition tied to his behavior?

Personally, if I reported this story, it would have been pretty straightforward: CNN is not publishing HanA**holeSolos name because he is a private citizen. Period. The rest of the information in that paragraph is unnecessary, because a media organization simply shouldnt release a private citizens personal information. He shouldnt have his private information threatened just because the president picked up one of his Reddit sh**posts, which he made with the expectation that he would be kept anonymous. (Though it is a truly bizarre turn of events that its even possible to write this sentence.)

In journalism, there is a clear line between public and private figures. Public figures are held to a higher standard since they represent not just themselves but their offices, their industries, and so on. But private figures are given a veil of privacy, since its not really in the public interest to get some random persons private information.

The month isnt over yet; CNN could step on the rake once more. Stay tuned.

The rest is here:

Glenn Greenwald: CNN Engaged In ‘Corporate Bullying And Creepy Censorship’ On Pro-Trump Reddit Story – Townhall