Summary of “New Yorker Reporter Jane Mayer on Kavanaugh, the Koch Brothers, and Trump”

On the page, Mayer, a staff writer at the New Yorker since 1995, is authoritative and direct, and as a journalist, she is relentless.
Mayer grew up in New York City but lives in DC, where she shares a three-story house with a husky yellow Lab, Rosie, and her husband, Bill Hamilton, the Washington editor for the New York Times.
Mayer often writes in an office on the second floor overlooking a dog park, but she also has a workspace at the New Yorker’s modest DC base.
“It’s the kind of infallible crystal ball that only comes from years of putting in the work.” Over the course of her career, Mayer has written four best-selling books, and one quality they share, according to Michiko Kakutani, former chief book critic of the New York Times and a longtime friend, is that they “Demonstrate uncanny historical prescience.”
Due to some weird alchemy between Twitter, where Mayer has 167,000 followers, and the rise of Trump, her work’s prominence has risen dramatically, with her New Yorker features-about Trump’s The Art of the Deal ghostwriter, about the ex-spy behind the Trump dossier-slamming into the media landscape, one after the next.
The new couple refused to return Mayer’s dog, so one day, when they weren’t home, she and Abramson drove over, and Mayer climbed through the pet door to retrieve it.
In the lead-up to the Kavanaugh hearings Mayer worked numerous 20-hour days, which was extreme even for a woman whose workload often leaves little time for everyday tasks-her car’s license plates were once so long expired that, on her way to a C-Span interview, she was pulled over, handcuffed, and brought to a police station.
“Before long we were hearing Sheryl Sandberg knew about it. It was so far from the conspiracy view that someone leaked her name.” Just after they published their story about Ford on September 14, they learned about Ramirez, and Farrow began spending hours talking to her, while Mayer focused on “The accountability portion, trying to be fair.” The decision to publish was fraught, but informed by the other incident Mayer learned about, the one she didn’t get into print, which also involved sexual misbehavior at a drunken party.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Is Kratom a Performance Enhancer or a Lethal Opioid?”

Until recently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “Kratom by itself is not associated with fatal overdose.” Last year, NIDA appeared to have scrubbed that sentence from its website, suggesting that perhaps federal researchers no longer believed products sold as kratom were innocuous.
Kratom contaminated with the painkiller tramadol has proven lethal, and the FDA has reported finding pathogenic strains of salmonella in kratom, but reports of fatal overdoses from eating or drinking the raw plant remain rather uncommon.
In 2016, the DEA initiated a formal process to put kratom in the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD-an illegal Schedule I drug with “No currently accepted medical use.” Following a vocal backlash from pain patients, people recovering from addiction, and other kratom supporters that summer, the DEA backed off and the regulatory hot potato landed in the hands of the FDA. In early 2018, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said the agency determined that kratom was an opioid.
Rather, kratom is considered an opioid because its active ingredients appear to bind to some of the same receptors in the brain as opioids.
While neither the U.S. or world anti-doping agencies consider kratom a performance-enhancing drug, for decades researchers have noted the parallels between manual laborers and athletes who use kratom to increase stamina and offset fatigue in the lead-up to a race or during marathon weight-lifting sessions.
A 2014 textbook on kratom, edited by Temple University pharmacology professor Robert Raffa, quotes a man identified as Jonas who describes a prototypical scenario: “The additional stamina kratom seems to provide allows me to push my workouts harder than with a vitamin/caffeine stack alone,” he wrote.
In response, Raffa and eight other scientific researchers signed a letter saying “The claims that kratom has caused the deaths of all or even most of the 36 individuals cannot be supported by any reasonable scientific or medical standard.” Most of the deaths attributed to kratom involved some combination of substances, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
Pete Candland, head of the American Kratom Association, an advocacy organization, accused local investigators of being part of a clandestine DEA “Shadow campaign.” Candland said the organization was “Deeply concerned that the agency may also be seeking to encourage findings of kratom in death reports from coroners and medical examiners.” In another conspiratorial twist, some believe the war against kratom comes at the urging of big pharma, which is eager to cash in on fixes for treating addiction.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Plant-based diet: why we might need it to survive as a species”

A few researchers and doctors have also quibbled with some of the details in the dietary advice, and whether we really know what a healthy diet for all humans looks like.
Why the EAT-Lancet Commission is pushing a plant-based diet After three years of reviewing what they say was “The best evidence available for healthy diets and sustainable food production,” the Lancet authors came up with a set of targets for shifting diets on an average intake of 2,500 calories a day.
He cited Predimed and the Lyon Diet Heart Study, two randomized controlled trials of the Mediterranean diet that showed benefits for cardiovascular disease risk or overall mortality.
Of course, the planetary health diet is not just about human health.
In a piece for Psychology Today, Georgia Ede, a psychiatrist and nutrition consultant, writes that “Animal foods are essential to optimal human health” and describes the various ways she thinks the EAT-Lancet Commission authors fail to provide adequate scientific evidence for the nutritional value of a plant-based diet.
“For those of us with insulin resistance whose insulin levels tend to run too high, the Commission’s high-carbohydrate diet – based on up to 60 percent of calories from whole grains, in addition to fruits and starchy vegetables – is potentially dangerous,” Ede notes.
The report notes that many of the 1 billion of the world’s population who are malnourished need more animal products in their diet, not less.
Instead, we would need a wide range of policies – everything from restricting certain foods to guiding food choices with incentives.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Does Journalism Have a Future?”

“We are, for the first time in modern history, facing the prospect of how societies would exist without reliable news,” Alan Rusbridger, for twenty years the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, writes in “Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.” “There are not that many places left that do quality news well or even aim to do it at all,” Jill Abramson, a former executive editor of the New York Times, writes in “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.” Like most big-paper reporters and editors who write about the crisis of journalism, Rusbridger and Abramson are interested in national and international news organizations.
In the past half century, and especially in the past two decades, journalism itself-the way news is covered, reported, written, and edited-has changed, including in ways that have made possible the rise of fake news, and not only because of mergers and acquisitions, and corporate ownership, and job losses, and Google Search, and Facebook and BuzzFeed.
“Watergate, like Vietnam, had obscured one of the central new facts about the role of journalism in America,” Halberstam wrote.
The view of the new journalism held by people like my father escaped Halberstam’s notice.
In “On Press: The Liberal Values That Shaped the News,” the historian Matthew Pressman argues that any understanding of the crisis of journalism in the twenty-first century has to begin by vanquishing the ghost of Spiro T. Agnew.
Breitbart left the Huffington Post and started Breitbart News around the same time that Peretti left to focus on his own company, Contagious Media, from which he launched BuzzFeed, where he tested the limits of virality with offerings like the seven best links about gay penguins and “YouTube Porn Hacks.” He explained his methods in a pitch to venture capitalists: “Raw buzz is automatically published the moment it is detected by our algorithm,” and “The future of the industry is advertising as content.”
Even as news organizations were pruning reporters and editors, Facebook was pruning its users’ news, with the commercially appealing but ethically indefensible idea that people should see only the news they want to see.
By some measures, journalism entered a new, Trumpian, gold-plated age during the 2016 campaign, with the Trump bump, when news organizations found that the more they featured Trump the better their Chartbeat numbers, which, arguably, is a lot of what got him elected.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Sports Science Is Finally Talking About Its Methodology Problems”

A few years ago, as I started researching my book about the science of exercise recovery, I found something curious: the methodological flaws that have roiled psychology were also lurking in sports science.
As I plowed through the published studies in the sports and exercise science literature, I saw many studies with small sample sizes, a journal system that appeared to be biased toward publishing studies showing that a treatment or regimen improves performance and studies that collected multiple measures in a way that could make it tempting for researchers to fish around for a favorable result.
Today at SportsRxiv, a place where researchers can share their unpublished studies to get feedback before peer review, 36 researchers have released an editorial urging the field to adopt practices that have been gaining traction in the social sciences to combat “Questionable research practices” such as p-hacking.
They’ve formed The Society for Transparency, Openness, and Replication in Kinesiology, which is modeled after the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science that has brought psychology researchers together to develop better research practices.
In the former, researchers submit their hypotheses in advance and commit to a specific methodology and analysis plan, which they post in an independent registry.
This prevents researchers from playing around with different ways of looking at their data until they get an appealing result, said lead author Aaron Caldwell, a graduate student in exercise science at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.
Registered reports, on the other hand, give researchers an opportunity to submit their studies to journals where they’ll be accepted or rejected based on the rigor of their methodology, rather than on the sexiness of their results.
The reaction so far has ranged from “This is good – it’s how science should be operating” to “Why are you trying to make science harder to do? It’s already hard enough,” Caldwell said.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why the Russian Influence Campaign Remains So Hard to Understand”

Reading a new report on Russian online interference in the 2016 Presidential election is a cognitively disturbing experience.
The report, prepared by the cybersecurity company New Knowledge, was the more detailed of two commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and released on Monday-it is illustrated with screenshots of memes apparently used as part of the Russian campaign of disinformation.
Are Russian trolls really this stupid? The answer is: not quite.
The Russian dissident singer-songwriter Alexander Galich sang about one such pair: “We stand for the cause of peace and we are preparing for war.” In a talk I gave with the historian Timothy Snyder, he cited more recent examples: “There is no such thing as a Ukrainian language” goes with “Ukrainian authorities are forcing everyone to speak Ukrainian.” Russian propaganda is a direct descendant of totalitarian Soviet propaganda.
The Russian trolls brought this world view to their work in American politics.
The New Knowledge report uses a beautiful phrase to describe the virtual universe of connections and reflections that the Russian trolls created: “Media mirage.” But contemporary Russians generally think that all media is a mirage-in a world in which there is no possibility of a stable shared reality, it would have to be.
In a book called “How Propaganda Works,” from 2015, the Yale philosopher Jason Stanley identifies and debunks two common assumptions about propaganda: that “a propagandistic claim must be false” and that “a propagandistic claim must be made insincerely.” As the New Knowledge report notes, some of the trolls’ claims weren’t false, and some, on the face of them, were unproblematic.
The researchers note repeatedly that it’s impossible to measure the precise effect of the Russian influence operation on the outcome of the 2016 election.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why the Russian Influence Campaign Remains So Hard to Understand”

Reading a new report on Russian online interference in the 2016 Presidential election is a cognitively disturbing experience.
The report, prepared by the cybersecurity company New Knowledge, was the more detailed of two commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee and released on Monday-it is illustrated with screenshots of memes apparently used as part of the Russian campaign of disinformation.
Are Russian trolls really this stupid? The answer is: not quite.
The Russian dissident singer-songwriter Alexander Galich sang about one such pair: “We stand for the cause of peace and we are preparing for war.” In a talk I gave with the historian Timothy Snyder, he cited more recent examples: “There is no such thing as a Ukrainian language” goes with “Ukrainian authorities are forcing everyone to speak Ukrainian.” Russian propaganda is a direct descendant of totalitarian Soviet propaganda.
The Russian trolls brought this world view to their work in American politics.
The New Knowledge report uses a beautiful phrase to describe the virtual universe of connections and reflections that the Russian trolls created: “Media mirage.” But contemporary Russians generally think that all media is a mirage-in a world in which there is no possibility of a stable shared reality, it would have to be.
In a book called “How Propaganda Works,” from 2015, the Yale philosopher Jason Stanley identifies and debunks two common assumptions about propaganda: that “a propagandistic claim must be false” and that “a propagandistic claim must be made insincerely.” As the New Knowledge report notes, some of the trolls’ claims weren’t false, and some, on the face of them, were unproblematic.
The researchers note repeatedly that it’s impossible to measure the precise effect of the Russian influence operation on the outcome of the 2016 election.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The AI boom is happening all over the world, and it’s accelerating quickly”

Just how fast the industry is moving, and to what end, is typically measured not just by actual product advancements and research milestones, but also by the prognostications and voiced concerns of AI leaders, futurists, academics, economists, and policymakers.
The first report, published last December, found that investment and work in AI was accelerated at an unprecedented rate and that, while progress in certain fields like limited game-playing and vision has been extraordinary, AI remains far behind in general intelligence tasks that would result in, say, total automation of more than a limited variety of jobs.
“There is no AI story without global perspective. The 2017 report was heavily skewed towards North American activities. This reflected a limited number of global partnerships, not an intrinsic bias,” reads the 2018 report’s introduction.
There’s an especially high concentration in Europe and Asia, with China, Japan, and South Korea leading Eastern countries in AI research paper publication, university enrollment, and patent applications.
When it comes to the type of AI activity, the report finds that machine learning and so-called probabilistic reasoning – or the type of cognition-related performance that lets a game-playing AI outsmart a human opponent – is far and away the leading research category by a number of published papers.
In a separate “Human-level milestones” section, the report breaks down some big 2018 milestones in fields like game-playing and medical diagnostics where progress is accelerating at surprising rates.
AI is increasingly being put to work by governments in situations that are ripe for abuse Google said it would pull out of the project once its contract expired, and it also published a wide-ranging set of AI ethics principles that included a pledge never to develop AI weaponry surveillance systems or to contribute to any project that violated “Widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” But it’s clear that the leaders of Silicon Valley see AI as a prime business opportunity and such projects and contracts as the financial reward for participating in the AI research arms race.
Part of the philosophy behind the AI Index report is about asking the right questions and making sure that the people making policy, the public, and the leaders of the AI industry have data to make informed decisions.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Americans Are Weirdly Obsessed With Paper Towels”

The Top Five Countries by Per Capita Spending on Paper TowelsAverage U.S. dollars spent on paper towels in 2017, per resident.
While Euromonitor doesn’t have data on exactly how many paper towels Americans go through each year, Svetlana Uduslivaia, the company’s head of research, did tell me that Americans lead the world in the usage of “Tissue products,” the umbrella category that covers paper towels.
In explaining the U.S.’s enormous appetite for paper towels, Uduslivaia pointed to America’s relatively wealthy and large population.
“A strong economy can support more spending on nonessentials like paper towels and purchases of higher-quality products,” she told me.
Perhaps the paper towel satisfies some deeper, uniquely American desire to be immediately rid of a problem, whatever the cost.
The rest of the world gets by just fine without paper towels.
The report also captures the hold paper towels have on the American household.
“Meanwhile, homes with higher relative incomes rely more heavily on disposable options like paper towels.” Basically, Americans use so many paper towels because they can afford to.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Report: big tech is collecting children’s data at an alarming rate”

Along with those adorable photos, they are sharing crucial data about their children that big tech companies are harvesting.
In late November, Anne Longfield, England’s children’s commissioner – tasked with promoting and protecting the rights of children – published a report titled “Who Knows What About Me,” which examines how big tech collects data on children and what the potential dangers can be.
In the report, Longfield argues that parents are exposing their children’s data at an alarming rate.
The report calls on parents and schools to examine the type of gadgets children play with, like smart speakers, wifi-powered toys, and gaming apps, all of which are collecting data on kids.
Data shared by parents about children is collected at an alarming rate Potential dangers for children no longer just entail speeding cars and strangers with candy.
Smart devices are watching children too – and collecting their data Smart toys have already garnered plenty of criticism for leaving children’s data like location vulnerable.
Longfield writes in the report that “The amount of data inferred about children was of real concern.” Families are now being targeted with products because they are essentially being watched every time they’re online.
What will all this data on children mean for their future? While the report highlights current safety concerns for children’s data privacy, it also mentions some troubling future possibilities.

The orginal article.