Some officials wanted Stoneman Douglas suspect Nikolas Cruz committed in 2016, documents show

Some school counselors and officials were so concerned about the mental stability of Nikolas Cruz, accused in last month’s Florida school massacre, that they decided to have him forcibly committed more than a year before the shooting.

However, the recommendation was never acted upon.

Documents in the criminal case against Cruz showed that school officials at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a sheriff’s deputy recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be involuntarily committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act for at least three days, sources confirmed to Fox News on Sunday.

The documents, part of Cruz’s criminal case in the shooting, showed that he had written the word “kill” in a notebook, told a classmate that he wanted to buy a gun and use it, and had cut his arm supposedly in anger because he had broken up with a girlfriend. He also told another student he had drunk gasoline and was throwing up. Calls had even been made to the FBI about the possibility of Cruz using a gun at school.

Students are seen fleeing Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where Nikolas Cruz is accused of having killed 17 people.  (AP)

The documents, first revealed by The Associated Press, were provided by a psychological assessment service initiated by Cruz’s mother called Henderson Behavioral Health. The documents showed a high school resource officer who was also a sheriff’s deputy and two school counselors recommended in September 2016 that Cruz be committed for mental evaluation under Florida’s Baker Act. That law allows for involuntary commitment for mental health examination for at least three days.

Such an involuntary commitment also would have been a high obstacle if not a complete barrier to legally obtaining a firearm, such as the AR-15 rifle used in the Stoneman Douglas massacre on Feb. 14, authorities said.


Nikolas Cruz is seen during a hearing flanked by his lawyer Diane Cuddihy.  (AP)

There is no evidence Cruz was ever committed. Coincidentally, the school resource officer who recommended that Cruz be “Baker Acted” was Scot Peterson — the same Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy who resigned amid accusations he failed to respond to the shooting by staying outside the building where the killings occurred.

David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor, said that an involuntary commitment would have been a huge red flag had Cruz attempted to buy a firearm legally.

“If he had lied, hopefully the verification of the form would have pulled up the commitment paperwork,” Weinstein said.

The documents did not say why Cruz was not committed under the Baker Act or whether he may not have qualified for other reasons. The law allows a law enforcement officer such as Peterson to initiate commitment under the Baker Act.

An attorney for Peterson did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.

Cruz, 19, was charged in a 34-count indictment with killing 17 people and wounding 17 others in the attack. He faces the death penalty if convicted, but his public defender Melisa McNeill has said he would plead guilty in return for a life prison sentence.

Stoneman Douglas High School students mourn the death of their classmates after a gunman opened fire and killed 17 people.  (AP)

In the Henderson Behavioral Health documents, Cruz’s mother Lynda was quoted as saying she had new concerns about her son’s mental state after he punched holes in a wall at their home in Parkland. The clinicians at Henderson came to the home for interviews and said Cruz admitted punching the wall but said he did so because he was upset at a breakup with his girlfriend.


Cruz also admitted cutting his arm with a pencil sharpener.

After a Sept. 28, 2016 interview, the documents say Cruz “reports that he cut his arms 3-4 weeks ago and states that this is the only time he has ever cut. (Cruz) states that he cut because he was lonely, states that he had broken up with his girlfriend and reports that his grades had fallen. (Cruz) states that he is better now, reports that he is no longer lonely and states that his grades have gone back up.”

He also told the clinician he owned only a pellet gun and was not capable of doing “serious harm” to anyone.

The documents showed that Cruz was very much on the radar screen of mental health professionals and the Broward County school system, yet very little apparatently was done other than these evaluations.

Other red flags also have surfaced, including calls to the FBI about Cruz’s potential to become a school shooter and numerous visits by county law enforcement officials to his home – both before his mother died in November and after, when he lived briefly with a family friend in Palm Beach County.

Again, very little was done.

It’s not clear from the documents who the recommendation was forwarded to or why it was not followed up.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Why Zuckerbergs 14-Year Apology Tour Hasnt Fixed Facebook

In 2003, one year before Facebook was founded, a website called Facemash began nonconsensually scraping pictures of students at Harvard from the school’s intranet and asking users to rate their hotness. Obviously, it caused an outcry. The website’s developer quickly proffered an apology. "I hope you understand, this is not how I meant for things to go, and I apologize for any harm done as a result of my neglect to consider how quickly the site would spread and its consequences thereafter,” wrote a young Mark Zuckerberg. “I definitely see how my intentions could be seen in the wrong light.”

In 2004 Zuckerberg cofounded Facebook, which rapidly spread from Harvard to other universities. And in 2006 the young company blindsided its users with the launch of News Feed, which collated and presented in one place information that people had previously had to search for piecemeal. Many users were shocked and alarmed that there was no warning and that there were no privacy controls. Zuckerberg apologized. “This was a big mistake on our part, and I'm sorry for it,” he wrote on Facebook’s blog. "We really messed this one up," he said. "We did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them."

Zeynep Tufekci (@zeynep) is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina and an opinion writer for The New York Times. She recently wrote about the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech.

Then in 2007, Facebook’s Beacon advertising system, which was launched without proper controls or consent, ended up compromising user privacy by making people’s purchases public. Fifty thousand Facebook users signed an e-petition titled “Facebook: Stop invading my privacy.” Zuckerberg responded with an apology: “We simply did a bad job with this release and I apologize for it." He promised to improve. “I'm not proud of the way we've handled this situation and I know we can do better,” he wrote.

By 2008, Zuckerberg had written only four posts on Facebook’s blog: Every single one of them was an apology or an attempt to explain a decision that had upset users.

In 2010, after Facebook violated users' privacy by making key types of information public without proper consent or warning, Zuckerberg again responded with an apology—this time published in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “We just missed the mark,” he said. “We heard the feedback,” he added. “There needs to be a simpler way to control your information.” “In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use,” he promised.

I’m going to run out of space here, so let’s jump to 2018 and skip over all the other mishaps and apologies and promises to do better—oh yeah, and the consent decree that the Federal Trade Commission made Facebook sign in 2011, charging that the company had deceptively promised privacy to its users and then repeatedly broken that promise—in the intervening years.

Last month, Facebook once again garnered widespread attention with a privacy related backlash when it became widely known that, between 2008 and 2015, it had allowed hundreds, maybe thousands, of apps to scrape voluminous data from Facebook users—not just from the users who had downloaded the apps, but detailed information from all their friends as well. One such app was run by a Cambridge University academic named Aleksandr Kogan, who apparently siphoned up detailed data on up to 87 million users in the United States and then surreptitiously forwarded the loot to the political data firm Cambridge Analytica. The incident caused a lot of turmoil because it connects to the rolling story of distortions in the 2016 US presidential election. But in reality, Kogan’s app was just one among many, many apps that amassed a huge amount of information in a way most Facebook users were completely unaware of.

At first Facebook indignantly defended itself, claiming that people had consented to these terms; after all, the disclosures were buried somewhere in the dense language surrounding obscure user privacy controls. People were asking for it, in other words.

But the backlash wouldn’t die down. Attempting to respond to the growing outrage, Facebook announced changes. “It’s Time to Make Our Privacy Tools Easier to Find”, the company announced without a hint of irony—or any other kind of hint—that Zuckerberg had promised to do just that in the “coming few weeks” eight full years ago. On the company blog, Facebook’s chief privacy editor wrote that instead of being “spread across nearly 20 different screens” (why were they ever spread all over the place?), the controls would now finally be in one place.

Zuckerberg again went on an apology tour, giving interviews to The New York Times, CNN, Recode, WIRED, and Vox (but not to the Guardian and Observer reporters who broke the story). In each interview he apologized. “I’m really sorry that this happened,” he told CNN. “This was certainly a breach of trust.”

But Zuckerberg didn’t stop at an apology this time. He also defended Facebook as an “idealistic company” that cares about its users and spoke disparagingly about rival companies that charge users money for their products while maintaining a strong record in protecting user privacy. In his interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, Zuckerberg said that anyone who believes Apple cares more about users than Facebook does has “Stockholm syndrome”—the phenomenon whereby hostages start sympathizing and identifying with their captors.

This is an interesting argument coming from the CEO of Facebook, a company that essentially holds its users' data hostage. Yes, Apple charges handsomely for its products, but it also includes advanced encryption hardware on all its phones, delivers timely security updates to its whole user base, and has largely locked itself out of user data—to the chagrin of many governments, including that of the United States, and of Facebook itself.

Most Android phones, by contrast, gravely lag behind in receiving security updates, have no specialized encryption hardware, and often handle privacy controls in a way that is detrimental to user interests. Few governments or companies complain about Android phones. After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it came to light that Facebook had been downloading and keeping all the text messages of its users on the Android platform—their content as well as their metadata. “The users consented!” Facebook again cried out. But people were soon posting screenshots that showed how difficult it was for a mere mortal to discern that’s what was going on, let alone figure out how to opt out, on the vague permission screen that flashed before users.

On Apple phones, however, Facebook couldn’t harvest people’s text messages because the permissions wouldn’t allow it.

In the same interview, Zuckerberg took wide aim at the oft-repeated notion that, if an online service is free, you—the user—are the product. He said that he found the argument that “if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you, to be extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth.” His rebuttal to that accusation, however, was itself glib; and as for whether it was aligned with the truth—well, we just have to take his word for it. “To the dissatisfaction of our sales team here,” he said, “I make all of our decisions based on what’s going to matter to our community and focus much less on the advertising side of the business.”

As far as I can tell, not once in his apology tour was Zuckerberg asked what on earth he means when he refers to Facebook’s 2 billion-plus users as “a community” or “the Facebook community.” A community is a set of people with reciprocal rights, powers, and responsibilities. If Facebook really were a community, Zuckerberg would not be able to make so many statements about unilateral decisions he has made—often, as he boasts in many interviews, in defiance of Facebook’s shareholders and various factions of the company’s workforce. Zuckerberg’s decisions are final, since he controls all the voting stock in Facebook, and always will until he decides not to—it’s just the way he has structured the company.

This isn’t a community; this is a regime of one-sided, highly profitable surveillance, carried out on a scale that has made Facebook one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization.

Facebook’s 2 billion users are not Facebook’s “community.” They are its user base, and they have been repeatedly carried along by the decisions of the one person who controls the platform. These users have invested time and money in building their social networks on Facebook, yet they have no means to port the connectivity elsewhere. Whenever a serious competitor to Facebook has arisen, the company has quickly copied it (Snapchat) or purchased it (WhatsApp, Instagram), often at a mind-boggling price that only a behemoth with massive cash reserves could afford. Nor do people have any means to completely stop being tracked by Facebook. The surveillance follows them not just on the platform, but elsewhere on the internet—some of them apparently can’t even text their friends without Facebook trying to snoop in on the conversation. Facebook doesn’t just collect data itself; it has purchased external data from data brokers; it creates “shadow profiles” of nonusers and is now attempting to match offline data to its online profiles.

Again, this isn’t a community; this is a regime of one-sided, highly profitable surveillance, carried out on a scale that has made Facebook one of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization.

There is no other way to interpret Facebook’s privacy invading moves over the years—even if it’s time to simplify! finally!―as anything other than decisions driven by a combination of self-serving impulses: namely, profit motives, the structural incentives inherent to the company’s business model, and the one-sided ideology of its founders and some executives. All these are forces over which the users themselves have little input, aside from the regular opportunity to grouse through repeated scandals. And even the ideology—a vague philosophy that purports to prize openness and connectivity with little to say about privacy and other values—is one that does not seem to apply to people who run Facebook or work for it. Zuckerberg buys houses surrounding his and tapes over his computer’s camera to preserve his own privacy, and company employees went up in arms when a controversial internal memo that made an argument for growth at all costs was recently leaked to the press—a nonconsensual, surprising, and uncomfortable disclosure of the kind that Facebook has routinely imposed upon its billions of users over the years.

This isn’t to say Facebook doesn’t provide real value to its users, even as it locks them in through network effects and by crushing, buying, and copying its competition. I wrote a whole book in which I document, among other things, how useful Facebook has been to anticensorship efforts around the world. It doesn’t even mean that Facebook executives make all decisions merely to increase the company valuation or profit, or that they don’t care about users. But multiple things can be true at the same time; all of this is quite complicated. And fundamentally, Facebook’s business model and reckless mode of operating are a giant dagger threatening the health and well-being of the public sphere and the privacy of its users in many countries.

So, here’s the thing. There is indeed a case of Stockholm syndrome here. There are very few other contexts in which a person would be allowed to make a series of decisions that have obviously enriched them while eroding the privacy and well-being of billions of people; to make basically the same apology for those decisions countless times over the space of just 14 years; and then to profess innocence, idealism, and complete independence from the obvious structural incentives that have shaped the whole process. This should ordinarily cause all the other educated, literate, and smart people in the room to break into howls of protest or laughter. Or maybe tears.

Facebook has tens of thousands of employees, and reportedly an open culture with strong internal forums. Insiders often talk of how free employees feel to speak up, and indeed I’ve repeatedly been told how they are encouraged to disagree and discuss all the key issues. Facebook has an educated workforce.

By now, it ought to be plain to them, and to everyone, that Facebook’s 2 billion-plus users are surveilled and profiled, that their attention is then sold to advertisers and, it seems, practically anyone else who will pay Facebook—including unsavory dictators like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte. That is Facebook’s business model. That is why the company has an almost half-a-trillion-dollar market capitalization, along with billions in spare cash to buy competitors.

These are such readily apparent facts that any denial of them is quite astounding.

And yet, it appears that nobody around Facebook’s sovereign and singular ruler has managed to convince their leader that these are blindingly obvious truths whose acceptance may well provide us with some hints of a healthier way forward. That the repeated word of the use “community” to refer Facebook’s users is not appropriate and is, in fact, misleading. That the constant repetition of “sorry” and “we meant well” and “we will fix it this time!” to refer to what is basically the same betrayal over 14 years should no longer be accepted as a promise to do better, but should instead be seen as but one symptom of a profound crisis of accountability. When a large chorus of people outside the company raises alarms on a regular basis, it’s not a sufficient explanation to say, “Oh we were blindsided (again).”

Maybe, just maybe, that is the case of Stockholm syndrome we should be focusing on.

Zuckerberg’s outright denial that Facebook’s business interests play a powerful role in shaping its behavior doesn’t bode well for Facebook’s chances of doing better in the future. I don’t doubt that the company has, on occasion, held itself back from bad behavior. That doesn’t make Facebook that exceptional, nor does it excuse its existing choices, nor does it alter the fact that its business model is fundamentally driving its actions.

At a minimum, Facebook has long needed an ombudsman’s office with real teeth and power: an institution within the company that can act as a check on its worst impulses and to protect its users. And it needs a lot more employees whose task is to keep the platform healthier. But what would truly be disruptive and innovative would be for Facebook to alter its business model. Such a change could come from within, or it could be driven by regulations on data retention and opaque, surveillance-based targeting—regulations that would make such practices less profitable or even forbidden.

Facebook will respond to the latest crisis by keeping more of its data within its own walls (of course, that fits well with the business of charging third parties for access to users based on extensive profiling with data held by Facebook, so this is no sacrifice). Sure, it’s good that Facebook is now promising not to leak user data to unscrupulous third parties; but it should finally allow truly independent researchers better (and secure, not reckless) access to the company’s data in order to investigate the true effects of the platform. Thus far, Facebook has not cooperated with independent researchers who want to study it. Such investigation would be essential to informing the kind of political discussion we need to have about the trade-offs inherent in how Facebook, and indeed all of social media, operate.

Even without that independent investigation, one thing is clear: Facebook’s sole sovereign is neither equipped to, nor should he be in a position to, make all these decisions by himself, and Facebook’s long reign of unaccountability should end.

Facebook in Crisis

  • Initially, Facebook said that Cambridge Analytica got unauthorized access to some 50 million users' data. The social network has now raised that number to 87 million.
  • Next week, Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress. The question on our minds: How can Facebook prevent the next crisis if its guiding principle is and always has been connection at all cost?
  • Facebook has a long history of privacy gaffes. Here are just a few.

Photograph by WIRED/Getty Images

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Mariah Carey opened up about bipolar diagnoses for the first time, and people are so grateful

Image: FilmMagic

Now more than ever, celebrities have been opening up about their experiences with mental health issues — and Mariah Carey now joins the ranks of the stars who hope to shatter stigma surrounding various disorders.

The singer, who is typically very private, got incredibly candid with Peoplein a new interview, revealing for the first time in her storied career that 17 years ago she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, which is marked by bouts of depression and mania, as well as sleeplessness and irritability.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told People‘s editor-in-chief Jess Cagle. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

Carey says she is regularly going to therapy and taking medication that strikes a “proper balance” for her and doesn’t leave her too tired or sluggish.

“I’m just in a really good place right now, where I’m comfortable discussing my struggles with bipolar II disorder,” she explained. “I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating. It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

People are already lauding Carey on social media for speaking up, telling her story, and in the process, making the world a little less isolating for those who are bipolar. 

The full cover story with Carey in People will be available on Friday. 

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Stripper Goes Viral After Stopping To Eat Pizza On Stage And It’s HOT!

OMG. Lilly Moon is totally our spirit animal!

The stripper went viral after sharing a video over the weekend from Jumbo’s Clown Room in Hollywood, California.

No, not because of her boobs — because of her pepperoni! LOLz!

Photos: These Movie Stars Have Shown Peen — See The NSFW Dick-ture Proof!

After the dancers had gotten pizza, she decided to just go out there, sit down on the stage, and have her a slice.

Watch the performance (which, yes, includes some amazing dancing, too) and see more of Lilly (below)!

Ha! But don’t think she’s just sitting on her butt eating pizza all day! She’s burning those cheesy calories on the pole!

See more of her best pics (below)!

[Image via YouTube.]

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13 Myths About Society Too Many People Believe

I am to science what Albert Einstein was to trap music. All I can do is defer to the experts, and what the experts say is alarmingly different from what I’m hearing from friends and headlines. So here’s a pile of commonly believed things which people smarter than me, using scientific methods, have said are probably bullshit.


Myth: Millennials Are Both Lazy And Refuse To Buy Homes

What I love about science is its ability to quantify things that could otherwise remain the subject of lazy jokes and shitty pundit rants forever. For example, a study found that there’s no measurable difference in work ethic among Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, and Millennials.

I think the reason for the misconception, aside from people turning into dicks as they get old because their backs hurt, is that they cling to an outdated idea of what kind of work is “hard.” There totally are Millennials who don’t want to shovel coal all day, but there are also grizzled old miners who would have a stroke if they were forced to spend all day doing phone tech support for entitled, abusive morons.

Also, you know how there was that joke that Millennials don’t buy homes because they spent all of their money on roasted avocados or whatever it was? And how the rebuttal from Millennials was that it’s because they’re too buried in debt and the American Dream is dead forever? Well, it turns out Millennials are in fact buying houses, and home ownership is growing faster among them than any other group. Hey kids, the next time your bathtub fills with poop, you won’t have a landlord to call! Wait until you see the bill! The American dream is alive, but it’s your plumber who’s living it.


Myth: Certain Political Ideologies Embrace Science, Others Reject It

Let’s try an experiment:

Nearly 3.7 billion birds a year are killed due to emissions from a certain type of offshore oil drilling (known as Bulk Uncapped Thermal Transfer), along with another 21 billion(!) mammals. At least one species of bird was rendered extinct by this. Knowing that, would you support banning this technique, or at least tightly regulating it?

OK, now what if I told you that those 3.7 billion birds and 21 billion mammals are actually killed by house cats, and when a few feral cats were introduced to an island off New Zealand, it took them all of two years to totally wipe out a local species of birds? And that, in fact, cats may be more destructive to wildlife than any other human-linked cause?

All of that is true. So did you just now think, “Well, I definitely need to see how they came up with those numbers!” and if so, why didn’t you say the same when I blamed oil drilling for those deaths, especially considering that “Bulk Uncapped Thermal Transfer” is just a string of words I picked because they spelled BUTT?

See, it’s not that we don’t demand to see sources for claims; it’s that we only demand to see them for things we don’t agree with. And studies show that, yes, liberals and conservatives are equally prone to this. This is becoming worse in the information age — avoiding information that upsets us is a really common stress management technique. Consuming information that reassures us is calming, it’s like a gentle brain massage. Hell, I just watched an entire two-hour video confirming my belief that Breath Of The Wild sucked, and it’s been six months since I played it. Your weapon breaks after every enemy!

Of course, that is an objectively terrible way to process information, and I need you to keep that in mind as you read this next one …


Myth: Some Rare Exceptions Aside, Sexual Assault Perpetrators Are Men, Victims Are Women

Holy shit. We’re … just jumping right into this, aren’t we?

All right. Here we go: Toxic ideas about gender roles, sex, and consent threaten everybody.

One study of college-age males found that half of them had been sexually victimized in some way since age 16, and half of those said the perpetrator was female. That same link points out that in prison, female inmates are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted by another woman than an inmate in a male prison is to be assaulted by another man. And if you’re reading this, I hope I don’t have to tell you that this is not a fucking contest. This is not a rebuttal to those raising awareness of male-on-female assault. This is an addition. The epidemic is more insidious than we think.

One study found that 21% of sexual harassers are women. Those aren’t exactly rare, once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences. As this insightful writeup points out, it means that all of us probably have a friend who is a harasser, whether your friends are male or female. But as that author points out, nobody mentions Mariah Carey as part of the #MeToo movement, even though her male bodyguard publicly accused her of sexually harassing him.

The problem is that outdated gender role bullshit infects everybody, even those trying to fix it. We’re still stuck with the idea that women can’t be aggressive or have raw sexual urges. We fall back to the idea that physical strength is the only true form of power, when if anything, #MeToo has taught us that coercion involves all forms of power (money, job status, emotional manipulation), and that much of the trauma is psychological or emotional. And while women are discouraged from reporting sexual misconduct, men are even less likely to report. Again, it’s not a contest. Gender roles screw everybody!


Myth: Sexual Assault Is Becoming More Pervasive

Now here’s the good news: Sexual assault has dropped in half since 1993. Culturally, we’re doing an incredible job of fighting this problem, even if there’s lots more to do. As with the thing about Millennials earlier, issues sometimes get louder in the national conversation as they improve. The same factors that reduced assaults cause us to notice them more, which causes us to talk about them more, which causes them to seem more common.

That’s good in the sense that it encourages people to keep doing something about it (assaults still happen with horrific frequency, I surely could have left that unsaid), but bad in the sense that it can create the impression that nothing has worked so far. It totally has. I’m telling you as a kid who grew up in the ’80s, these conversations about consent did not used to happen. I watched comedies that played rape as a punchline. It was a whole genre.


Myth: Harassment Is Definitely The Reason Not Many Women Work In Male-Dominated Fields Like STEM

It’s true that only 24% of science, tech, engineering, and mathematics jobs are held by women, and everyone agrees this is a problem, partly because it’s a self-sustaining cycle. Male-dominated workplaces would logically be a deterrent to women, as it sends a message that they don’t belong and, let’s face it, boys clubs aren’t any fun if you’re not a boy (and in many cases, even if you are). There are all sorts of initiatives to get more women into these fields right now, since those will be the only good jobs once everything is robots. This is good and should continue. Also, there is no evidence that the millions of women who aren’t working in STEM wish they were.

Only 16% of teenage girls say they’re “very interested” in computer science, even though 48% say they think they could do it if they wanted to. So it’s true that only 18% of CS degrees go to women, but that’s actually higher than the percentage who show lots of enthusiasm for it earlier in life.

Also, the data shows that in countries where women have more equal rights and greater ability to make choices, they’re actually less likely to choose STEM careers than in countries where women have fewer rights (like Algeria, where 41% of STEM graduates are women). If something is still steering women away in these more progressive countries, it apparently starts early, way before they’re even thinking about a career. The link in the paragraph above does show that boys get more encouragement in school (teachers suggesting they could grow up to be engineers or whatever), and in fact, boys tend to be more confident in their ability to do science even when they’re worse at it than the girls.

It might also be that most women just don’t want to work in STEM.

If so, we can surely agree that the goal is to A) make sure every workplace is welcoming, regardless of gender and B) make sure nobody is being made to feel weird about their choices, whether they want to be an engineer, housewife, soldier, or Instagram butt model. That goes for everyone — another study found that when women are mistreated at work (insulted, berated, etc.), it’s more often by other women. This happens, according to the subjects, when they act assertive or dominant — meaning that when they broke traditional gender norms, it was usually other women who punished them. Does anybody sell a “Toxic Gender Beliefs Screw Everybody” T-shirt?

Let’s see, what else is in the news these days …


Myth: School Shootings Are Rampant

Ah. This.

Well, you’ll be happy to know that the rate of school shootings has been dropping for decades, and today kids are about ten times more likely to be killed walking or bicycling to school than they are to be fatally shot. Actually, most people are not happy to hear it, but we’ll talk about that.

Now, you may have recently seen a stat claiming there have been 290 school shootings since Sandy Hook, but that’s incredibly misleading. Half of those are accidents, nonfatal incidents, or suicides, mostly on college campuses — which are a huge problem, but not what a single person imagines when they hear “school shooting.” (Note: The real public health hazard of firearms is suicide, but apparently everybody thinks that’s boring.)

Anyway, I know why people hate seeing stats like this. They’re afraid positive news will rob the gun control movement of urgency. But I never want to be relying on weaponized ignorance as a strategy, and there’s something extremely important to note here: A single huge news event shouldn’t be treated like a statistical trend. These shootings should be treated like terror attacks, because that’s what they are. And just as we shouldn’t harass Muslims after every ISIS attack (since that’s precisely what ISIS wants), we shouldn’t target socially isolated kids as potential mass shooters.

(Related: Incidents of bullying at school have been dropping since 2005, when the government started keeping track. That’s another supposedly unsolvable, inevitable part of life that turned out to be neither of those things.)

While we’re on it, I guess we have to get this one out of the way …


Myth: Mass Shootings Are A Significant Danger To The Average Person

I became such an asshole after 9/11 that it retroactively made me become an asshole for my previous 25 years of life prior to the event. It took me a solid five years to figure out that terrorists are manipulating this particular flaw in the way information is spread: Humans tend to mistake the spectacular for the common.

The target isn’t the victims, it’s the viewers at home. They know that due to a glitch in the human brain, seeing 100 news stories about one terror attack equals 100 terror attacks. That’s how a rare, statistical blip of an event can make 100 million people afraid to leave the house. Mass shooters, like all terrorists, know this.

The reality is that assault rifles account for about 2% of gun deaths in the USA, even with all of the mass shootings lumped in. Rifles of all types — including hunting rifles and such — only account for 3%. It’s just not convenient to commit crimes with a rifle; it’s only the most dedicated who’ll take the trouble.

By the way, I don’t care if you want to heavily regulate assault rifles or high-capacity magazines. Go right ahead. Make every gun owner pass six months of training and a Voight-Kampff Test. But if you’re worried about gun deaths (including the two-thirds of those that are self-inflicted), handguns are literally 97% of the problem. You’re statistically more likely to be killed by someone’s bare fists than by an assault rifle, and you’re more than 100 times more likely to die of any other cause than to be murdered by any method. Those numbers keep going down because what we’ve been doing the last couple of decades to fight these problems has been working.

Not that the average person realizes it. Experts can tell you that fear of crime isn’t spread by crime — it’s spread by other people who are afraid of crime, even in low-crime communities. The whole reason mass killings occur in clusters is that (we think) the media attention triggers the next potential killer who’s lying in wait. If they’re living a power fantasy, their true power isn’t in dealing death, it’s in dealing fear. What psychopath can resist the prospect of a whole culture cowering before them?

You may say that the news should just stop covering those shootings, but that’s again talking about using structured ignorance as a problem-solving strategy. What needs to change is how we choose to react to it.


Myth: Putting Body Cameras On Cops Keeps Them In Line

So as I’m writing this, news broke that another young, unarmed black man was shot in his back yard, by officers who claim they mistook his cell phone for a gun. Click that link if you want to watch the body camera footage of the whole thing, from the cameras the officers knew were on when they pulled the trigger. Or you can check out this story of two cops beating the shit out of a black man for jaywalking, captured clearly on nine different body cam videos.

That brings us to the data none of us were hoping to hear: The largest study on the subject, done in Washington, D.C., found no change in citizen complaints or use of force by the officers after they started wearing body cameras. Prior studies had shown mixed results — in at least one case, fatal shootings actually went up. Like most data, it can be interpreted in any number of awful ways. You can say that this proves the system is so corrupt that cops know they’ll get off even with video, or that it proves cops always believed they were making the right decision in the moment, and that if anything, they were holding back before.

You know what did reduce citizen complaints and result in fewer suspects being killed, according to one study? Providing military gear to police.

“There must be something those studies missed!” you say, and so do I. I don’t want my police to have tanks, because I prefer not to live in a motherfucking dystopia. But this is the data we’ve got to work with, and we don’t get to just hand-wave it away if we claim to believe in science. Oh, and while you’re arguing among yourselves about this, go ahead and talk about that other huge study that found no link between poverty and violent crime.


Myth: Racism Is On The Rise In America

That “Mistaking the spectacular for the common” mechanism that makes Americans in quiet towns fear being gunned down by a mass shooter or beheaded by MS-13 is at play here, too. And everywhere, really.

Racists want you to believe they’re taking over, but all that’s growing is a fringe of highly visible, spectacular racism. The number of hate groups in the USA has gone up about 7% since 2015, and that’s right in line with the FBI’s data showing hate crimes rose by about 5% last year, though reporting is spotty. I guess you could say that a 5-7% increase in extremism isn’t exactly an explosion, but I don’t want to downplay it, and it really does feel like white nationalist YouTube channels have exploded by 5,000%. Nice algorithm you’ve got there, guys. I love seeing these in my recommendations:


But overall, racist attitudes continue their sharp decline, even in the Trump era. You’re not seeing a turning of the tide in racism. You’re seeing increasing polarization, the losing side getting louder and crazier. This includes intentionally staging appearances they know will draw protests so that they can play victim. The fact that the rest of us find them repulsive is what generates the noise.

We’re seeing the same thing happen with religion. This is maybe the least religious generation in the history of America, but what remains is the hardcore Evangelical Christians, who are going to get louder and more strident as this trend continues. The fact that they’re losing ground is the very thing that drives them.

Wait a second. It just occurred to me why the NRA has gotten so flamboyant and cultish in recent years. Let me do a quick check … yep, gun ownership in the USA is at its lowest point in 40 years. Never forget: The losers get louder.


Myth: White People Are Happier, Because They’re On Top

I bet you’ve never heard this stat before: Polls show low-income blacks are more optimistic about their futures than poor whites. The ones living in the South — the worst place to be a poor black person, I’d assume — are the most optimistic of all. More optimistic than rich people of the same race, even.

This isn’t new. One reason Bernie Sanders couldn’t get much traction among minorities in 2016 is that black Americans were much more likely to rate the economy as “good” in polls. Latinos, too — they were much more likely than whites to say they expected their fortunes to improve in the next year. The most pessimistic group was the white people. In fact, the white suicide rate is surging, even though their prospects are statistically still much better.

But statistics don’t matter. Perception matters. That’s what this whole article is about. It matters so much that people will take this bleak, false depiction of reality to their fucking graves.

That same “No, this can’t be right” reaction you’ve had to who knows how many of the points in this article is the exact same one white people have when they hear that they’re still getting the best of everything. Related …


Myth: The Lower Classes Are Getting Killed In This Economy, And It Keeps Getting Worse

Hey, did you know that for the last couple of years, wages for low-income workers have been growing faster than rich people’s? Blue-collar jobs, service jobs, manufacturing — their pay has been surging. Some industries are struggling to find workers. We’ve been in a booming economy for years now.

See? Do you feel yourself rejecting that news? Do you feel like it threatens you somehow, puts you in a weaker position? Like it’s just ammunition for the bad guys? That’s how it works! We have all sorts of reasons to believe or not believe things, and “What does the data say?” ranks way down on the list.

If you were able to swallow that one, how about …


Myth: Sweatshops Are Bad

“What?” you say. “Implying that sweatshops are good is like saying Breath Of The Wild wasn’t a tedious pile of shit.” OK, but then why do 85% of the people in developing countries say it’s a good thing when foreign companies build factories there?

It’s complicated. Look, if you find out your favorite product is made by sweatshop labor in a third-world country, you have every right to demand they stop. But it’s only good if it means improving conditions in that factory. If they just move the jobs elsewhere, that’s a fucking disaster for those workers. Ignoring that doesn’t make us noble.

Even the shitty factories improve their standard of living because those sweatshops didn’t replace good jobs, they replaced abject poverty. More jobs means other employers have to offer more to compete for those workers. That’s why wages in general go up and more jobs tend to also bring improved work conditions. Poor countries with liberalized trade see less absolute poverty, lower child mortality, and improved gender equality. The data is overwhelming.

That can seem confusing if you’ve heard that globalization brings with it inequality, but remember that inequality doesn’t necessarily mean the poor are getting poorer — they can both be rising, the rich just rising faster. If you want to do something, then tax those people, don’t take the jobs away. And don’t pat yourself on the back if you lobbied a company to stop using sweatshop labor, only to have them use robots instead.

One more …


Myth: Politicians Just Do The Bidding Of Corporate Lobbyists

Wait. That … no, that can’t be right. I may know even less about politics than the creators of Breath Of The Wild knew about weapon durability mechanics, but I know this. We just saw Net Neutrality get repealed because big internet providers threw cash and lobbyists at the government. Right?

Well, this 2017 study found companies didn’t benefit at all when the candidates they supported took office (meaning there were no return favors). This even larger study spanning 18 years of data found that corporate lobbying efforts made no difference, and that companies were basically wasting that money. There was an earlier study that found the opposite, but was roundly debunked by multiple experts.

This has to be a flawed study, or looking at the wrong thing, or … something. Yeah, I’m just going to refuse to believe that one. You know what, just forget I said anything.

David Wong is the Executive Editor at Cracked, follow him on Twitter or on Facebook or on YouTube or on Instagram.

Wouldn’t hurt you to pick up a copy of The Science of Positivity, maybe make some sense of things.

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

For more, check out 5 Things ‘Smart’ People Believe (That Are Totally Wrong) and 19 Commonly Held Beliefs, Debunked With Statistics.

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11 Things People Would Tell Their Pets If They Could Speak the Same Language

Sometimes, it feels like pets speak the same language you do. But what if you could actually, truly understand your pets, and they could understand you?  What would you say? Here are 11 pet owners on what the subject of their conversation would be if they had one hour to tell their pets everything they felt.


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This Diet Doesn’t Just Help With Weight Loss. It May Also Prevent Major Diseases.

If you have friends or family members who’ve lost weight or are very focused on their health, chances are you’ve heard of the ketogenic diet.

As those who’ve adopted the low-carb, high-fat diet will tell you, it comes with many health benefits, especially when it comes to dropping extra pounds. But did you know that besides making it easier for you stay in shape, it could potentially prevent major diseases as well?

According to HealthLine, over 20 studies show that following the ketogenic diet will help with weight loss, and may even prevent significant diseases such as diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease. But it gets even better.

Health professionals including Dr. Valter Longo from the University of Southern California’s Davis School of Gerontology have found that low-calorie diets can slow tumor growth and starve cancer cells of the glucose they require for fermentation.

According to The International Journal of Preventative Medicine, studies “indicate that [the Ketogenic Diet] had an inhibitory effect on tumor growth and 9 researchers expressed that [the Ketogenic Diet] could enhance survival time.”

So what exactly does this diet entail? It focuses on high-fat, adequate-protein, and low-carbohydrate foods, which put your body in a metabolic state known as ketosis, forcing it to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. The standard guideline is to make sure what you eat consists of 75% fat, 20% protein, and just 5% carbs.

Diet Doctorrecommends you keep your carb intake to under 50 grams per day, as the fewer carbs you eat, the more effective the diet will be. Meals should be based on meats, fish, eggs, butter and cheeses, nuts and seeds, healthy oils, avocados, and low-carb vegetables. Coffee or tea without sugar or sweeteners is acceptable, as is an occasional glass of wine — but water should be what you’re drinking the most.

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Finland has found the answer to homelessness. It couldnt be simpler | Harry Quilter-Pinner

With the number of rough sleepers in Britain soaring, its time we got over our prejudices, writes Harry Quilter-Pinner, who works at the homelessness charity SCT

I was born in Liverpool and grew up on a council estate. I had a clean home, toys and nice meals as a kid. When I was nine years old, the sexual abuse started. My abusers made me feel special. They gave me gifts, moneys, cigarettes and sweets. When I was 13 I ran away from home and soon found myself in the murky world of prostitution on the streets. My life was out of control.

This is how it all started for Simon. I met him 23 years later at SCT, a local charity I help to run in east London that offers support to people who are homeless and face alcohol and drug addiction. He used to make me coffee every morning at the social enterprise cafe we run. In the intervening period he had spent years in and out of hostels and institutions, as well as long spells on the streets.

When I met him, Simon was sober and working for the first time in years. He said at the time that SCT offered me the opportunity to get my life back on track. Life is worth living now. Im looking forward to my future. Tragically, this future wasnt to be: soon afterwards he decided to return to the streets and died as a result.

I would like to be able to say that Simons story is an exception. But in reality it is all too familiar, as new statistics published by the Guardian showed on Wednesday. The number of homeless people dying on the streets or in temporary accommodation in the UK has more than doubled over the past five years to more than one per week. The average age of a rough sleeper when they die is 43, about half the UK life expectancy.

The tragedy is that its entirely within our power to do something about it: homelessness is not a choice made by the individual, it is a reality forced by government policy. As homelessness has rocketed in the UK up 134% since 2010 it has fallen by 35% in Finland over a similar period of time. The Finnish government is now aiming to abolish it altogether in the coming years.

I recently travelled to Finland to understand how it had done this. It turns out its solution is painfully simple and blindingly obvious: give homes to homeless people. As Juha Kaakinen, who has led much of the work on housing first in Finland, explained to me when I met him in Helsinki, this takes housing as a basic human right rather than being conditional on engaging in services for addictions or mental health.

This is fundamentally different to our model in the UK, where stable accommodation is only provided as a reward for engaging in treatment services. The problem with this is obvious if you stop and think about it: how do we expect people to address complex personal problems while exposed to the chaos of life on the streets?

Sceptics will argue that giving homes to homeless people is a recipe for disaster. Arent we just subsidising addiction? Wont we end up with huge bills when it all goes wrong? Dont people need an incentive to get their lives back on track and engage in services?

Actually, no. The evidence from Finland as well as numerous other pilot schemes across the world shows the opposite is true. When people are given homes, homelessness is radically reduced, engagement in support services goes up and recovery rates from addiction are comparable to a treatment first approach. Even more impressive is that there are overall savings for government, as peoples use of emergency health services and the criminal justice system is lessened.

At the last election, the government committed to pilot a housing first approach in the UK. This isnt good enough we dont need another pilot. During my time in Finland I didnt see one homeless person. Within a few hours of coming back to London I walked past more than 100 rough sleepers queuing for food in the rain, just a few minutes from parliament. What we need is action. Ending homelessness is eminently achievable if we have the moral capacity and will to take proper action. We must overcome our prejudices and our apathy. The status quo is simply not good enough.

Harry Quilter-Pinner is director of strategy at SCT, a homelessness and addictions charity in east London. He is also a research fellow at IPPR, the UKs progressive thinktank. He writes here in a personal capacity

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10 Real Life Hacks for Losing Weight That Arent Crash Dieting

Losing weight is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either delusional or one of those naturally thin people who’s never used the word “diet” a day in their life.

Thankfully, there’s all sorts of information out there to help you out.

Here are a few surefire tips to get you going.


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Daughter Opens Dads Bible 10 Years After He DiesWhat She Sees Written in the Margins Knocks Her Breathless

It is often in our moments of greatest weakness that God’s power manifests in us most magnificently. And there’s hardly a moment of greater weakness than when we are faced with our own mortality.

Of course, we all know that none of us get out of this thing alive, but the weight of that reality rarely hits us until we’re staring death in the face. It is in that place where we are stretched and broken, frail and helpless, that God gives us the courage to exercise our faith in full bloom.

Such was the case for Valli Vida Gideons‘ father. The day he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his abdomen, Valli never saw the invincible man she knew as dad look so afraid.

But according to Valli, a wonderful transformation started to occur… “as his body began to fail, his faith grew.”

As his health faded and his body withered, she watched the eternal light of Christ shine in her father ever more powerfully.

“He never lived like he would lose the battle.”

…And though he died, in reality, he never did.

Over a decade after her Dad passed, Valli saw the most astonishing proof of that in a place she never expected — the margins of his Bible.

It was in those intentional scrawls throughout Romans, John, James, Jeremiah that she received the “highest gift.”

Read Valli’s Facebook post below, detailing a beautiful story of a father’s unfailing faith that translated into a daughter’s greatest treasure:

“I’ll never forget the look in my Dad’s eyes when the doctor told him the cancer was sprinkled throughout his abdomen like powdered sugar. At that moment I saw the man I considered fearless look afraid.

What started as an exploratory surgery ended in an unspeakable diagnosis. Mom and Dad asked us to leave the room; they needed to ask the doctor questions parents don’t want their children to hear.

The fight of my Dad’s life began behind those closed doors.

Through chemo treatments and all the hell inflicted by cancer, he never lived like he would lose the battle.

And I believed it.


What’s more, as his body began to fail, his faith grew.

Years later, after his year-and-a-half fight ended, I was given the highest gift.

I still don’t know how and when I received his bible. But well over a decade after my dad died, I opened it.

His notes were everywhere. The most beautiful penmanship written with his favorite black pen. Along with dates. Highlights. Underlined phrases, words, passages.

A spiritual journey…Now, in my hands.

I held antique-like pages of the book he received on his wedding day -over 50 years ago. Inside it was a documented path.


The contents within the margins of the pages explained so much:

Why everyone at his funeral said he was their good, if not best, friend.
Why grown men had tears in their eyes.
Why my grandma died suddenly, not long after his passing.
Why my mother never remarried.
Why our hearts were broken.

His life was filled with incredible depth. He loved selflessly. And unconditionally. My mother knew she was IT in his eyes; So did his children.

And now, as I flip through the roadmap he provided in Romans, John, James, Jeremiah… I know beyond a shadow of a doubt during the last months of his life, he was at peace. And he knew, unequivocally, where he was going.

Gifts like these continue to bless me. Some moments they are crystal clear; other times they wash over me like a gentle breeze. They are there; All I have to do is open them.

Thank you, Dad.”

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