Society's Child


My embarrassing picture went viral

When strangers mocked me for my weight, it was a lesson in Internet cruelty, mean girls -- and fighting back

© Courtesy of the author
I logged onto my Facebook one morning to find a message from a girlfriend. "You're internet famous!" it read. She sent a link to a very public page whose sole purpose was posting images that mock people's appearances. There I was in full glory - a picture of me dressed as my hero Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for Halloween - but written over the image were the words "Fridge Raider."

Funny enough, I wasn't even angry at first. I was actually kind of amused. Who doesn't laugh at unfortunate shots of poorly dressed strangers? I've certainly done it before; the Internet runs on this kind of anonymous scorn. There are entire websites dedicated to the poor fashion choices of random people. And just like me, most of those people are fat.
Che Guevara

'March against Monsanto': Global movement plans 2nd protest

Monsanto protests
© AFP Photo / Robyn Beck
Joining six continents, 52 countries and over 500 cities, 'March against Monsanto' is planning its second mass rally Saturday against the biotech giant and genetically modified food. A number of Agent Orange victims are expected to join the protest.

"Saturday is a big day of action against Monsanto. We took our lights out to a local cornfield. Monsanto is bad for our food and bad for our planet," the March against Monsanto's movement posted on its Facebook page.

The rallies, which come four days ahead of World Food Day on Oct. 16, will call on millions of activists to boycott "Monsanto's predatory business," genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and other harmful pesticides, which threaten "health, fertility and longevity."

On October, 5, Movement against Monsanto launched a global 'Twitter storm' asking people to tweet and post certain hashtags as frequently as possible.

"The goal of this Twitter storm is to get the March and info about GMOs trending on Twitter and Facebook and to build awareness about Monsanto and their dangerous products and policies," the organizers said in a statement.

Civics Class? The U.S. government shutdown is teaching students how not to run a country

"What we're seeing now is so at odds with what we teach in civics classes that it's going to cause cognitive dissonance."

government shutdown
© Evan Vucci/Associated Press
With the partial shutdown of the federal government well into its second week, it's reasonable to ask what lessons students might be absorbing from the actions of Congress - or lack thereof. Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, told me the political stalemate might translate into a short-term "teachable moment" for a class on government. But in the long run, it's a less-than-ideal curriculum.

"What we're seeing now is so at odds with what we teach in civics classes that it's going to cause cognitive dissonance," Levine said. He added that students already know there's a disconnect between what they're being taught about how U.S. government is supposed to function and the realities of current events. And the shutdown only contributes to that gap, he added.

Levine's organization recently convened a commission to examine civic learning and engagement among young people, leading to a new report released today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge conducted an extensive mix of surveys and interviews (including repeats over time to measure changes) with more than 700 teachers and more than 6,000 young people. Among the key takeaways:
  • On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as "The Nation's Report Card," white students from affluent families were "four to six times as likely to exceed the 'proficient' level" on the civics test, when compared with their black or Hispanic classmates from low-income households. (Irony alert: If you're looking for more on NAEP, you won't find it on the official government site. It's been shut down by the shutdown.)
  • Even in presidential elections, fewer than half of eligible young Americans vote. Those who do show up at the polls are more affluent and highly educated than those who don't vote.
  • Nine out of 10 Americans ages 18-24 failed to meet the organization's benchmark of "informed engagement" last year, defined as the following: "registered, voted, answered at least one (out
 of two) campaign knowledge questions correctly, answered four or more general political knowledge questions correctly, voted consistently with their personal opinion on
a campaign issue of their choice, and followed the news fairly or very closely during the election season."
While neither voter turnout nor political knowledge among young people has declined much since the 1970s, the political debate has become "more confusing, alienating, and polarizing," the report's authors contend.
"The degree of pushback and controversy surrounding the very idea of civic engagement is new," Levine told me. "If I had to highlight just one statistic, it's that a quarter of [the government and civics] teachers said their students' parents would object to discussion of politics in the classroom."

Outrageous! Intern can't bring sexual harassment suit because she's not a paid 'employee'

Federal Court in NY rules that an intern doesn't deserve human rights protection against employee because she's unpaid.

As if being an unpaid intern wasn't rough enough, it gets worse....

Last week, New York federal district court judge Kevin Castle ruled that a former unpaid intern could not bring a sexual harassment suit under New York City Human Rights Law because the absence of remuneration disqualified her from "employee status" under the law, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

In order to bring a claim under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, employee status is deemed an "essential condition to the existence of an employer-employee relationship" and to date, interns are not considered 'employees'.

In the case at hand, Lihuan Wang, a former intern at Phoenix Satellite Television US, Inc. filed a suit against the company after what she described as repetitive sexual advances and physical touching by her supervisor and bureau chief.
Dollar Gold

Obamacare's winners and losers in Bay Area

Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.

Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.

Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four.

"Welcome to the club," said Robert Laszewksi, a prominent health care consultant and president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates in Virginia.

For years, the nation has been embroiled in the political rhetoric of "Obamacare," but this past week the reality of the new law sank in as millions of Americans had their first good look at how the 3 1/2-year-old legislation will affect their pocketbooks.
Bizarro Earth

Obamacare supporter: 'Of course I want people to have health care, I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally'

© AFP/Getty Images
A woman looks at the HealthCare. gov insurance exchange internet site October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly called, passed in March 2010, went into effect Tuesday at 8am EST.
Supporters of President Barack Obama and his health care law were shocked to learn that their health care plans are being replaced with more expensive ones to comply with all the requirements of Obamacare.

Cindy Vinson, of San Jose, Calif., will reportedly pay $1,800 more each year for an individual policy. Additionally, Tom Waschura, of Portola Valley, Calif., will pay nearly $10,000 more for insurance to cover his family of four.

Both of the California residents "vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama," according to the San Jose Mercury News. They also both anticipated their rates would go up, just not so drastically.

"Of course, I want people to have health care, I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally," Vinson said.

Utah couple married 63 years dies nine hours apart

© KSL-TV video screenshot
Jerry and Edith Dunn were married for 63 years and died only nine hours apart from each other last week.
A Utah couple married for 63 years couldn't bear to be apart from each other, according to their children.

So, after Jerry Dunn of Spanish Fork died last week, it was only hours later that his wife, Edith, followed him, KSL-TV reported.

"Mom and dad were just always together," son Donald Dunn told KSL. "He worried about her, she worried about him."

Their devotion to each other was strong enough that Jerry Dunn would get up at 5 a.m. three days a week to take Edith for dialysis treatment. The wife and mother also had dementia and diabetes.

"He had promised her he would take care of her and that he would never put her in a care facility," Deanna Golden said of her father.
Arrow Down

Mysterious duck decapitations force Irish locals to remove wildfowl

© Irish Times
The ducks had be introduced to brighten up Edenderry Harbour.
Locals have been forced to remove ducks from a harbour in Co Offaly following a mysterious spate of duck decapitations in recent days.

Members of Edenderry's tidy towns committee were horrified to discover the heads of mallard and donated farmyard ducks at the harbour this week.

Independent Cllr Noel Cribbin said the ducks had be introduced to brighten up the area and provide a focal point for young and old to congregate.

According to Cllr Cribbin, who first introduced the ducks with the help of Frank Carroll, 22 of the 40 ducks are gone and a number of heads have been found around the harbour in recent days.

"Since the ducks were introduced to the harbour some years ago they have brought nothing only happiness and contentment from the dozens of kids, parents and grandparents who have come to feed them over the years," Cllr Cribbin remarked.

He is convinced the birds were decapitated with a sharp implement as there was no sign of any animal marks on the heads and the remainder of the ducks were missing. Cllr Cribbin said the animals are very tame, "the farmyard duck cant fly, so he is a sitting duck- literally," he remarked.

Spaniards are less productive, constantly tired because Spain is in the wrong time zone

spain time zone
© U.S. Navy
Spain (in red) runs on Central European time, even though it sits pretty firmly in Western European time (blue).
Everyone in Spain feels jetlagged all the time, even if they haven't been traveling. That is, at least, the finding of a new Spanish parliamentary report on the country's labor conditions, which concludes that Spain is needlessly crippled by its timezone, which keeps it one hour out of step with the countries around it. After 70 years in its current time zone, the report says, Spain should shift an hour back.

Spain sits in the middle of the Western European time zone, to which Portugal, Morocco and the U.K. also belong. But because of a weird twist of history, it actually observes Central European time, running an hour ahead of daylight. That might sound like no big deal to Americans, who switch their clocks twice a year anyway -- but there's a growing body of evidence that it's really hurting the Spanish, contributing to everything from low worker productivity to a persistent gender gap.

Western U.S. best for business, Tax Foundation says

State business tax climate index
For the third year in a row, Wyoming has fostered the nation's best business climate, thanks to low rates on corporate and personal income taxes made possible by a booming oil industry, according to a new report from the Tax Foundation.

In fact, six of the top 10 states with the best business climate are western states, bolstered at least in part by new revenues from energy production that allows them to reduce other types of taxes. In many cases, the top-ranked states omit at least one major stream of revenue altogether, such as an income tax or a sales tax.

"If you can go without one of the major tax categories, not only do you have one less tool to distort the economy, but you're also getting rid of a ton of overhead costs," said Scott Drenkard, a Tax Foundation economist who co-authored the study. "You're also able to get rid of the dead weight cost on the private side, where people are trying to comply with those taxes."