Tuesday, 30 September

13:00

On Our Radar: Feminist News Round-Up [Bitch Blogs]

on our radar

Here's what's on our radar! 

• The city of Ferguson has increased the fee for accessing police files—up to $135 per hour—and some see it as a way to keep the media from investigating the murder of Mike Brown. [Talking Points Memo]

read more

Hertzfeldt's weird future Simpsons couch gag [Boing Boing]

Esteemed animator Don Hertzfeldt's deeply strange and wonderful take on the Simpsons couch gag.

Ten worst opening lines in novels [Boing Boing]

The American Scholar presents a list of the ten worst opening lines in novels. I don't agree with all their choices, but I agree that most are awful enough to make me abandon the book after reading the first sentence. Read the rest

Con/Game: a story from the In Real Life universe [Boing Boing]


To celebrate the imminent release of In Real Life, the graphic novel that Jen Wang and I created from my story "Anda's Game," we've collaborated on a comic about a con game in gamespace, just published on Tor.com. Read the rest

Art Spiegelman's WORDLESS -- US tour dates [Boing Boing]


Jeff sez, "After its hit debut at the Sydney Opera House Graphic Fest in 2013 Art Spiegelman's WORDLESS! Intellectual Vaudeville Show is going on a US TOUR: OCTOBER 8-26 2014. Read the rest

Scholarly Writing Hacks: 5 Lessons I Learned Writing Every Day in June [ProfHackerProfHacker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education]

6226296333_750bc0ec0a_b
[This is a guest post by Jennifer Ahern-Dodson, an assistant professor of the Practice in Writing Studies at Duke University where she teaches digital storytelling and researches learning communities and community-university partnerships. You can follow her on Twitter @jaherndodson.--@JBJ]

On May 31st panic set in. I had agreed to commit to writing every day in the month of June as part of a faculty writing group experiment. Inspired both by National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), recent conversations about mini-monographs, and a visionary classics colleague who cooked up this idea, seven of us agreed to set a big scholarly writing project goal for the month (such as writing 30,000 words) and write every day to reach it.

We agreed to post our daily word count and to report our progress (and musings) on a private WordPress site: “(Wee) Little Monograph in a Month.” Despite my enthusiasm for the challenge, I feared I’d fail: Could I keep my writing momentum going for a full 30 days? Could I really write just a little every day and get a rough, raggedy draft by the end of the month?

Here’s what I learned from trying.

1. Use writing to figure out what you think. In the early messy-thinking-on-the-page stage, it’s not the quality of the words, but generating text that matters most. Because I committed to writing every day for a month, I was able to turn off the internal critical voice, that perfectionist voice that many writers struggle with, and just write instead of agonizing over every word and sentence. Sometimes my writing meandered for a while before I discovered what it was I wanted to say, but I finished the month with enough of a draft to see both gaps and possibilities. I had something to revise. One of my favorite posts from a fellow traveler in our June group captures the value of generative writing best:

Is anyone else discovering that they might be writing awkward/problematic/vomitatious words but that they are THINKING, and SEEING their project, as if for the first time?

2. 20-30 minutes a day really does make a difference. I’ll admit I was skeptical, but as I settled into the month, I realized that by writing just a little every day, I was making writing a habit. By “showing up” to write daily (whether I felt inspired or not), I discovered myself thinking about my project even after I’d met my daily writing goal, and so found renewed intellectual energy when I showed up to write the next day. Enforcing upper limits on writing time allowed me to walk away and not lapse into the stressful binge-writing trap, a practice that I sometimes fall back on that perversely just generates more resistance to writing at all.

Experimenting with short daily writing also allowed me to do an end run around the problem of (seemingly) unlimited summer writing time (no teaching, committee, administrative commitments), yet never feeling I had enough time to write the first draft of a book.

3. You gotta have a plan, and having a plan means scheduling time for weekly assessments and revisions of the plan and its goals. I revisited my writing goals at the end of each week to keep my big-picture goals in mind (to get that first draft on paper) and to see if I was working productively toward that goal. Each Friday part of my scheduled writing time included these questions:

(Big picture): What was I trying to think about, to understand, to express with this project? To whom? Why? How did the particular section I was working on fit into the big picture?

(Daily writing): How did it go? Did I need to stop and do more research before the next writing session? Was I distracted at that coffee shop? Bored by chapter 3? More productive in the morning? Did I need to schedule writing around vacation or travel?

By planning weekly assessments, I could celebrate small successes when I hit weekly targets, remind myself what it was I wanted to say, and look honestly at what was happening when I was writing, so I could see where I was getting stuck and whether I needed to revise my writing plans to keep the momentum going. Momentum is crucial.

4. Community matters: Showing up for each other helps you show up for your writing. I often resisted writing in June, especially on the weekends and while on a family beach trip. But when I resisted, when I felt I could not write one more word, I turned to our group WordPress site for motivation. Each of us in the June challenge—an historian, philosopher, rhetorician, classicist, German literature scholar, biologist, and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies scholar—posted the highs and lows we encountered with our writing and our research. Despite the disparate topics (including Medieval dogs, ancient foods from the wild, and fan fiction) and meeting only virtually, I felt connected to other writers, which kept me writing. Our group posted word counts daily, which was a helpful accountability measure, but we also infused a sense of fun by posting snapshots of our writing lives with a format adapted from the tumblr site Academic Breakfast. Here’s one from a writer studying foraging cultures:

wineglassWhere am I? On my sun porch

What am I drinking? Glass of Grüner Veltliner (Cheers!)

What am I doing? (5 words) Pre-writing – today’s words till ahead

How am I doing? (10 words) Proving difficult today to tend plants AND write about them.

5. We need to keep a sense of humor about the challenges of writing in the real world.
allthecats Our writing community posted a wide range of experiences (and distractions) that we faced as we tried to write every day in June. Cats taking over our writing spaces. Power outages. Laptop crashes. Big ideas for other projects popping up and distracting us from our June writing project goals. We wrote in airports while waiting for lost luggage, a Disney World bathroom at 5am while family members slept, and in an outdoor garden that called for attention. Our pictures and musings captured our writing lives as we actually lived them, not as we imagined them. Collectively, we demystified the magical summer-of-productive-writing so many of us long for in April, but rarely see materialize by early August. Life happens. Writing can find a way in if we make the space for it.

In the end, I managed to write every day in the month of June and sketched out a rough draft of a book that I’d been sitting on for years. Draft in hand, I now turn toward the hard work of revising it. To work productively toward that goal, I know I need a faculty writing community, a writing routine (when the specter of “unlimited” writing time gets replaced by the “no time to write” mantra), and a plan for the academic year.

Our June group is resuming for the fall, and new writers are joining us. We will name and post our writing project goals and weekly targets to our new WordPress site “justwrite.” (My weekly goals will include writing Monday-Friday for at least 20 minutes).We will continue to post pictures of our writing spaces and the joys and challenges of scholarly writing. Our pictures may be less glamorous—beach views and sun porches replaced by offices or classroom spaces—but we will write, and use these scholarly writing hacks to face new kinds of writing resistance with good humor and a shared commitment to cultivating a sane and productive scholarly writing life.

Have you had success with online writing groups? What strategies seemed to help get the writing done? Share in comments!

In-post photos are courtesy of J. Clare Woods. Lead photo is “Writing in the Purple Room” by Flickr user Julie Jordan Scott / Creative Commons licensed BY-2.0

Not a joke: A Tetris movie is being made [Ars Technica]

Early production still (not really)

Tetris, the block-stacking game that comes in near the top of many lists of greatest games ever, is being made into a live-action, feature-length, "sci-fi epic" motion picture, The Tetris Company announced today.

Before you ask, no, this is not a joke. You'd be forgiven for asking, though, because the very idea of a movie based on Tetris has been an Internet joke countless times in the past.

The film is being developed by Threshold Entertainment, best known to gaming crossover fans as the studio behind the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie. That film, which grossed $70 million, was one of the first to take a video game license to the silver screen, and it's still critically considered one of the best examples of the based-on-the-game sub-genre (though that's really somewhat damning with faint praise).

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

FCC repeals sports blackout rule, challenges NFL to stop screwing over fans [Ars Technica]

Just as Lucy pulls the ball away from Charlie Brown, the NFL takes broadcasts away from fans.
Charles M. Schulz

The Federal Communications Commission today unanimously voted to eliminate its sports blackout rules, challenging the National Football League to end its own policies that sometimes prevent fans from watching home games on TV.

"Today’s FCC action makes clear: if leagues want to mistreat fans, they will have to do so without Uncle Sam’s help," said David Goodfriend, an attorney and lobbyist who founded a group called the Sports Fans Coalition that fought against the rules.

NFL broadcasts are blacked out in local markets when games are not sold out. The NFL in 2012 relaxed the rules by letting individual teams reduce the likelihood of a blackout by only requiring that 85 percent of tickets be sold. But the policies have persisted for decades with support from the federal government.

Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Shellshock fixes beget another round of patches as attacks mount [Ars Technica]

Over the past few days, Apple, Red Hat, and others have pushed out patches to vulnerabilities in the GNU Bourne Again Shell (bash). The vulnerabilities previously allowed attackers to execute commands remotely on systems that use the command parser under some conditions—including Web servers that use certain configurations of Apache. However, some of the patches made changes that broke from the functionality of the GNU bash code, so now debate continues about how to “un-fork” the patches and better secure bash.

At the same time, the urgency of applying those patches has mounted as more attacks that exploit the weaknesses in bash’s security (dubbed “Shellshock”) have appeared. In addition to the threat first spotted the day after the vulnerability was made public, a number of new attacks have emerged. While some appear to simply be vulnerability scans, there are also new exploit attempts that carry malware or attempt to give the attacker direct remote control of the targeted system.

Stormy weather

On Monday, the SANS Technology Institute’s Internet Storm Center (ISC) elevated its INFOcon threat level—a measure of the danger level of current Internet “worms” and other threats based on Internet traffic—to Yellow. This level indicates an attack that poses a minor threat to the Internet’s infrastructure as a whole with potential significant impact on some systems. Johannes Ullrich, Dean of Research at SANS, noted that six exploits based on Shellshock have been recorded by the ISC’s servers and “honeypot” systems. (A honeypot is a virtual or physical computer system set up to entice attackers and record their actions.)

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Facebook’s ad platform will know who you are, what you buy, even offline [Ars Technica]

A few of a marketer's favorite things.

Facebook has officially relaunched the advertising platform Atlas in a new incarnation that will allow marketers to track users in new dimensions, according to a blog post from the company. Atlas will offer the ability to not only synthesize information about where users are seeing ads, but also to see how and whether those ad views play out into a purchase, even if it's offline.

Facebook acquired Atlas from Microsoft in 2013, and now the platform has been "rebuilt from the ground up." Atlas aims to accomplish what it calls "people-based marketing"—that is, the counterpoint to marketing based on a browser cookie or isolated social media profile.

Atlas's services purport to solve the "cross-device" problem, where marketers struggle to relate the browsing activity on a user's phone to what they do on their computer. This has become easier to an extent with Facebook profiles and logins, but Atlas also plans to add "partners" that "cross search, social, creative management and publishers" to track how ads are viewed and how successful they are on multiple "channels and platforms."

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

WWF Report: Wild Vertebrate Populations Have Dropped 52% Since 1970 [INHABITAT]

WWF Report 2014

The World Wildlife Fund‘s annual Living Planet Report surveys over 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. The 2014 report has just been released and it shows populations of wild vertebrate species declined 52 percent between 1970 and 2010. The report points the finger at habitat loss and destruction and the exploitation of animal populations as the primary causes of the die-off. The effects of climate change are also having a significant impact and are anticipated to have an even greater impact in the future. While the WWF admits the report “is not for the faint-hearted,” they hope that the information will prove useful so “humanity can make better choices that translate into clear benefits for ecology, society and the economy today and in the long term.”

WWF, World Wildlife Fund, Report, Living Planet Report, 2014, vertebrate, population decline, species extinction, habitat loss, population crash, climate change, pollution, 52% wild vertebrate animals lost since 1970 WWF, World Wildlife Fund, Report, Living Planet Report, 2014, vertebrate, population decline, species extinction, habitat loss, population crash, climate change, pollution, 52% wild vertebrate animals lost since 1970

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Enable Chrome's "Mute This Tab" Shortcut in the Dev Channel [Lifehacker]

Enable Chrome's

Ever have a tab start playing audio without your permission? The latest version of Chrome's dev channel lets you mute the tab with a simple click.

Read more...








Why You Should Drive the Agenda During a One-On-One With Your Boss [Lifehacker]

Why You Should Drive the Agenda During a One-On-One With Your Boss

Use one-on-one time with your boss wisely by preparing your own talking points. Take pre-meeting time to prepare a list of things that need discussed, then use it.

Read more...








“Where You Are Right Now Is a Necessary Step.” [Lifehacker]

“Where You Are Right Now Is a Necessary Step.”

Sometimes it's difficult to be happy in the moment because you haven't reached the finish line yet. The truth is that the place you're in right now is a necessary step to reach the next place.

Read more...








How to Tackle the Toughest Shipping Restrictions [Lifehacker]

How to Tackle the Toughest Shipping Restrictions

Fall is the season of shipping weird stuff across the world. While most packages won't raise an eyebrow, there are some things like alcohol, lithium ion batteries, and perishable items that have their own special rules. Here's how to manage some of the more difficult things to ship.

Read more...








Michael Phelps arrested for DUI [CNN.com - Top Stories]

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was arrested early Tuesday morning in Maryland on a DUI charge, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

1st-degree murder charge in beheading [CNN.com - Top Stories]

Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the beheading of a 54-year-old woman last week at his former workplace in Oklahoma and an attack on another woman, said Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn.

Women 'creeped out' by suspect's behavior [CNN.com - Top Stories]

Coy Barefoot reveals that before Jesse Matthew met Hannah Graham, a group of women were "creeped out" by his behavior

HP Introduces Sub-$100 Windows Tablet [Slashdot]

jfruh writes While Windows-based tablets haven't exactly set the world on fire, Microsoft hasn't given up on them, and its hardware partners haven't either. HP has announced a series of Windows tablets, with the 7-inch low-end model, the Stream 7, priced at $99. The Stream brand is also being used for low-priced laptops intended to compete with Chromebooks (which HP also sells). All are running Intel chips and full Windows, not Windows RT.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Matchstick and Mozilla Take On Google's Chromecast With $25 Firefox OS Dongle [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader writes Matchstick and Mozilla today announced their open-source take on the Chromecast: a $25 Firefox OS-powered HDMI dongle. The streaming Internet and media stick will be available first through Kickstarter, in the hopes to drive down the price tag. Jack Chang, Matchstick General Manager in the US, described the device to me as "essentially an open Chromecast." He explained that while the MSRP is $25 (Google's Chromecast retails for $35), the Kickstarter campaign is offering a regular price of $18, and an early bird price of $12.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Dog Gummit, The World Can Wipe Out Rabies [News]

Rabies kills tens of thousands of people each year. Now scientists are hoping to mount a final siege against the virus globally. The trick? Getting all our four-legged friends to come for a shot.

» E-Mail This

This 'Tak3n' trailer is everything you wanted in 'Taken 3' [The Verge - All Posts]

The extended trailer for Taken 3 — henceforth, Tak3n — is here. It literally does not matter what I write here, so here are the best Liam Neeson quotes from the trailer."Listen carefully, Kim. Something terrible has happened to your mom. Don't trust anyone"

"There are things I have done in my life and I was always ready to face the consequences. To protect my family."

"My first priority is to protect the only one I have left... I'm going to finish this."

"Good luck."

Reactions from the staff:

  • "The Porsche drifting under the jet and taking out the landing gear is everything to me." — Chris Ziegler, noted expert on cars, planes, and Fast & Furious
  • Liam Neeson's been hotter... nothing especially science-y going on except that...

Continue reading…

I am woman, hear me Thor [The Verge - All Posts]

For superheroes to stay alive, they have to change with the times. It’s a dilemma the comics industry has struggled with for decades, here and there resisting and elsewhere confronting head on. It's also one of the best parts about loving comics. When I was a kid, few of the characters I loved looked much like me. The few that did weren’t exactly marquee characters, the icons like Spider-Man and Wonder Woman that fans could rally behind outside their local comic book shops. Today, however,...

Continue reading…

A five-Airbus formation flight is as beautiful and crazy as it sounds [The Verge - All Posts]

It isn't often you see airliners flying in formation. There's a good reason for that, of course: they're too busy earning money for the airlines that own them to engage in any sort of photogenic tomfoolery.

Occasionally, though, it all comes together. Airbus is in the midst of launching its A350 XWB, a next-generation hauler that will replace the A330 and A340 while doing battle with Boeing's 777 and 787 Dreamliner. In celebration of achieving certification from the European Aviation Safety...

Continue reading…

NHL will use GoPro footage to demonstrate players' POV during games [The Verge - All Posts]

GoPro's tiny cameras are about to make watching hockey a bit more interesting: this coming season, NHL games on NBC and Rogers will start cutting to point-of-view footage that's been captured by GoPro cameras, according to Adweek. Unfortunately, the footage won't actually be live and from the game — instead, it'll be prerecorded footage of select players demonstrating what it's like to be in specific situations. Adweek suggests that you might see New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist blocking a shot, for instance. For any player that GoPro has footage for (and it's not stated how many that is), the networks will be able to cut to their point-of-view demonstration whenever it wants to in order to better illustrate what's happening in...

Continue reading…

FCC unanimously votes to eliminate sports blackout rules [The Verge - All Posts]

The FCC today unanimously voted to end its sports blackout rules nearly four decades after they were first implemented in 1975. Despite stiff objections from the NFL, the Commission has put an end to the rules that barred cable and satellite providers from airing games blacked out on local broadcast stations because they failed to sell out. But it only ends the government's rules. The NFL still has its own, private blackout rules in place with broadcasters like FOX and CBS, and those may still prevent fans from watching local games when tickets remain at the box office.

Continue reading…

Sweepstakes: win an HTC One Harman Kardon Edition! [The Verge - All Posts]

You like free stuff. So do we, which is why we've put together one of our biggest giveaways yet: we're giving away 10 — yes, 10 — HTC One (M8) Harman Kardon Edition phones for Sprint!

The sweepstakes is open from now, until tomorrow at 11:59AM ET, October 1st.

There are two ways to enter:

1) Like this photo on our Facebook page (and be sure to like our page to get all of our news on Facebook, if you're into that sort of thing);

2) Subscribe to The Verge newsletter using the entry field below. You must be a new subscriber to win, but don't worry — we'll have plenty more giveaways in the near future. (full rules here).

By subscribing with the form below, you are agreeing to receive a daily newsletter from The Verge that highlights top...

Continue reading…

12:00

CEO of stalkerware company arrested [Boing Boing]

Hammad Akbar, a Pakistani national and CEO of Invocode, marketers of Stealthgenie, was arrested in LA on Saturday and charged with a variety of offenses related to making, marketing and selling "interception devices." Read the rest

Chromecast getting competition from Firefox OS-powered Matchstick [Ars Technica]

The streaming stick market is apparently heating up. Google, Microsoft, and Amazon all have entrants in this space, and if a new Kickstarter appeal succeeds, there will soon be a Firefox OS stick getting in on the action.

Inspired by the Chromecast, the Matchstick will plug into your TV using HDMI, connect to devices locally using Wi-Fi, and be used as a streaming media platform. Unlike Chromecast, however, Matchstick will use the open source Firefox OS as its base, making it readily accessible to developers who will be able to build HTML apps for Matchstick that leverage open Web technologies.

The developers hope it will deliver what they wanted Chromecast to achieve: any content on any HD screen, anywhere, any time. They've put together an SDK for both sending apps (that run on phones or PCs to transmit content to the Matchstick) and receiver apps (that run on the Matchstick itself).

Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

New docs show how Reagan-era executive order unbounded NSA [Ars Technica]

A set of newly declassified documents shows definitively and explicitly that the United States intelligence community relies heavily on what is effectively unchecked presidential authority to conduct surveillance operations, as manifested through the Reagan-era Executive Order (EO) 12333.

And at a more basic level, the new documents illustrate that the government is adept at creating obscure legalistic definitions of plain language words, like "collection of information," which help obfuscate the public’s understanding of the scope and scale of such a dragnet.

The documents were first published on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) after the group filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School.

Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Call Oklahoma beheading terrorism [CNN.com - Top Stories]

Colleen Hufford, 54, was beheaded by Alton Nolen during a surprise attack at a Vaughan Foods plant in Oklahoma last week, according to police. Thankfully, before the terrorist -- yes, terrorist -- could behead another victim, Traci Johnson, he was shot by the company's CEO, Mark Vaughan, who is also a deputy sheriff.

Join Ello, the 'anti-Facebook'? [CNN.com - Top Stories]

Jeff Yang says interest in Ello shows many people are dissatisfied with existing social network platforms.

DNA links Graham case to 2 more [CNN.com - Top Stories]

DNA evidence links Jesse Matthew, a suspect in this month's disappearance of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, to the death of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who disappeared in 2009, a law enforcement source told CNN Monday.

Interview With Facebook's Head of Open Source [Slashdot]

Czech37 writes Facebook may be among the world's most well-known tech companies, but it's not renowned for being at the forefront of open source. In reality, they have over 200 open source projects on GitHub and they've recently partnered with Google, Dropbox, and Twitter (among others) to create the TODO group, an organization committed to furthering the open source cause. In an interview with Opensource.com, Facebook's James Pearce talks about the progress the company has made in rebooting their open source approach and what's on the horizon for the social media network.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Dr. Oz, Autism, and GMOs [NeuroLogica Blog]

It is no longer news that Dr. Oz has long ago abandoned any pretense to scientific rigor and is simply another scaremongering hawker of snake oil and nonsense. Still, it’s hard not to marvel when he sinks to a new low.

On a recent show Oz’s target was genetically modified organisms (GMO). This is not new for Oz, he has hosted anti-GMO activists in the past, warning his audience about non-existent health risks.

This time around Oz and his guest are claiming that pesticides used with certain GMO varieties may cause autism. Why is it always autism? It’s likely at least partly due to the fact that awareness of autism has been increasing in the last 2 decades, creating the false impression that autism itself is increasing. This leads to numerous false correlations (most famously with vaccines) and the assumption of cause and effect (often to support a preexisting bias). As you can see from the graph, however, the rise in autism diagnoses tightly correlates with increased organic food sales – but I guess you have to cherry pick the correlation you want.

The narrative that Oz spun for his audience was this: GMO is tied to pesticide use. Those pesticides are hazardous to your health, and specifically might cause autism. Organic food is pesticide free, and going organic can actually cure autism.

Every link in that chain of argument is misleading or patently wrong.

To help him spin this tale he had on as a guest anti-GMO activist Zen Honeycutt from Moms Across America. In a march against GMO she gave a speech, saying:

I am here today because of love. We are all here because we love our families, our communities, our freedoms, our environment, our dogs and cats, our bees and butterflies. We love our farmers and we have FAITH in our farmers. We have faith that they can and will farm as has been done for thousands of years, without GMOs containing foreign proteins and the use of toxic chemicals.

and

Today, young couples have a 30% “failure to conceive” rate. That is the lowest in recorded US history. Everyone needs to know about GMOs!

She is a clever propagandist. She doesn’t actually say here that GMOs cause fertility problems, but the implication is unavoidable. She links GMO explicitly to “foreign proteins” and to pesticide use. What are “foreign proteins?” Proteins are just proteins. Most are broken down in the stomach and intestine and become amino acids – food.

Some proteins can resist this breakdown, and they have a greater tendency to cause an allergic reaction. This is why proteins introduced into food through GMO are tested specifically for sequences known to confer resistance to digestion, to cause allergy, or to cause toxicity. There have been no reported cases of allergic reactions to GMO food. 

Let’s unpack further Oz’s anti-GMO narrative. First, GMO is not specifically about conferring resistance to herbicides. Glyphosate resistant crops are among the most common already approved and on the market, but that has nothing to do with GMO itself. Genetic modification can be used for a variety of purposes, such as disease resistance, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, and pest resistance. There is research underway to use GM technology to reduce reliance of nitrogen fertilizer, enhance photosynthesis and therefore yield, and to enhance the flavor of commercial cultivars.

Oz, however, wants his audience to link GMO to pesticides. Even here the story is more complex. Current GMOs, specifically Bt varieties, have reduced the use of insecticides. This has been a boon to farmers, reducing costs and exposure to insecticides, and also has been beneficial to the environment. Overreliance on single methods of insect control can lead to resistance, but this is an issue of overall farming practice, and not specific to GMOs.

GMOs, specifically Roundup Ready or glyphosate resistant varieties, have increased the use of glyphosate (that is the point of these varieties). Again, overreliance on single methods of weed control is probably not sustainable, but we have to consider the big picture. Glyphosate is actually less toxic than many other herbicides it is displacing. Also, tilling the soil to reduce weeds is bad for the soil and releases carbon into the atmosphere. Hand weeding is labor intensive. So – there is no great option, and it’s simplistic to say that using glyphosate is worse than any other option.

I acknowledge that Roundup Ready crops do encourage over use of this single method of weed control, which is already resulting in resistant weeds. A more integrated approach is better – similar to the intelligent use of antibiotics to avoid resistance. Farming practice is the real issue here, and glyphosate resistant crops should be looked at as one tool among many. Don’t blame the technology, however, if it is not being used optimally.

What apparently triggered this Oz episode is the fact that a new herbicide resistant crop is coming on the market. Dow AgroSciences (not Monsanto this time) is coming out with Enlist Duo. These are crops that are resistant to two herbicides, glyphosate and 2,4-D choline.

2, 4-D was approved in the 1940s and is already one of the most commonly used herbicides in the world. The EPA has determined that it is safe for its intended use.

Oz and his guest imply a link between pesticide exposure and autism. No such causal link has been established, however.

Amazingly, Honeycutt specifically claims that when she switched her family to all organic diet, within 8 weeks he son’s symptoms of autism resolved. Even if autism were the result of pesticide toxicity, this is a highly implausible claim. Autism is the result of developmental changes in the architecture of the brain. This is not something that can change within weeks. The claim is patently absurd, but is likely to scare a lot of parents, and that was the point.

It is also not necessarily true that organic produce has less pesticide. Organic farmers can use “natural” pesticides, and often have to use more because they are less effective than some synthetic pesticides. There is also no particular reason to assume that “natural” pesticides are more safe than synthetic pesticides – this is just a naked naturalistic fallacy.

Conclusion

In my opinion, Dr. Oz systematically misinformed his audience for propaganda purposes, to fearmonger about GMOs. Fearmongering is also good for ratings, so I guess it was a win-win.

There is a meaningful discussion to be had about the regulation, patenting, and use of GMOs. It is unfortunate, however, that public discourse is dominated by pseudoscientific and often outright false claims, largely perpetrated by GMO opponents.

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Putting Caffeine In Your Underwear Won't Make You Slimmer, Alas [News]

Here's a government service: The Federal Trade Commission has told two companies to quit selling caffeinated women's undergarments because they don't actually slim your nether regions as advertised.

» E-Mail This

Database Flaws Cloud Sunshine On Industry Payments To Doctors [News]

A federal website set to go live Tuesday will disclose drug and device companies' ties to doctors. The release marks a milestone, but could be misleading for patients checking up on their doctors.

» E-Mail This

In NFL Game, A Slide And A Prayer Spur Debate And Clarification [News]

The NFL sides with fans who criticized an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty called on a Muslim player who prostrated himself in the end zone Monday night.

» E-Mail This

Requirements for Latin Text Layout and Pagination Draft Published [W3C News]

The Digital Publishing Interest Group has published a Working Draft of Requirements for Latin Text Layout and Pagination. This document describes requirements for pagination and layout of books in latin languages, based on the tradition of print book design and composition. It is hoped that these principles can inform the pagination of digital content as well, and serve as a reference for the CSS Working Group and other interested parties. This work was inspired by the Requirements for Japanese Text Layout. Learn more about the Digital Publishing Activity.

TTML Text and Image Profiles for Internet Media Subtitles and Captions 1.0 Draft Published [W3C News]

The Timed Text Working Group has published a Working Draft of TTML Text and Image Profiles for Internet Media Subtitles and Captions 1.0. This document specifies two profiles of Timed Text Markup Language 1: a text-only profile and an image-only profile. These profiles are intended to be used across subtitle and caption delivery applications worldwide, thereby simplifying interoperability, consistent rendering and conversion to other subtitling and captioning formats. The text profile is a superset of TTML Simple Delivery Profile for Closed Captions (US). Learn more about the Video in the Web Activity.

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