OK there's been enough jokes over the years to where I think we all have established that Al Gore did not invent the internet. That honor actually goes to a British scientist named Tim Berners-Lee who submitted his proposal for a "World Wide Web" to help the European Organization for Nuclear Research manage its data. He couldn't possibly have imagined the effect his idea would have on the world so on the 28th anniversary of his invention, Berners-Lee sent a stern warning in a letter to the World Wide Web Foundation, listing three problems that need to be dealt with "for the web to fulfill its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity."
Control of personal data. Berners-Lee believes users are being ill-served by the current business model of "free content in exchange for personal data," which people agree to when accepting "long and confusing terms and conditions documents." He says people would be better off having control of their own data and choosing when to share it. He also warns that governments watching people online are passing repressive laws -- and the "chilling effect on free speech" is stifling dissent even in democratic countries.
Misinformation. Berners-Lee warns that most people now get information through a small number of search engines and social media sites, which use algorithms and the personal data they have harvested to decide what to show people. "The net result is that these sites show us content they think we'll click on -- meaning that misinformation, or "fake news," which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire," he writes.
Political advertising. Algorithms and harvested data distort things in political advertising as well, making it possible for an estimated 50,000 different variations of ads to be shown in a single day of last year's US presidential race, Berners-Lee says. "Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?" he asks.
He concludes: "I may have invented the web, but all of you have helped to create what it is today and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want -- for everyone." (Newser)
Woman Fights Off Rape with Wits and Action
Kelly Heron was on the fourth mile of a marathon training run when she stopped to use a public bathroom in a Seattle park. The 36-year-old says, "As I was drying my hands I became aware that something was wrong," and as she turned around she found herself face to face with a man who "immediately took me down to the ground, hit both my knees and legs. Next she found herself fighting the guy on the bathroom floor and kept screaming, "Not today mother ---!" Herron said that bit of profanity became her "battle cry" throughout the attack, as she tried at first to lock herself inside a stall. Police identified her attacker as 40-year-old registered sex offender Gary Steiner and Heron said he "started beating me in the face with his hand." At that point, she realized, "this doesn't have to be a fair fight" and remembering a self-defense course from weeks earlier, started clawing his face. She said, "All those little things that I learned in my life...how to punch and everything came back to me. I started to feel like I was going to lose consciousness... but I got another surge of adrenaline and I reached for the door and was able to get out." A passerby helped her lock her assailant inside until police arrived. Steiner faces charges of second-degree assault and attempted rape. Meanwhile Ms. Heron isn't letting this detract her from her goal - you'll catch her running the Seattle marathon this summer. (ABC News)
Make America Poor Again
Well we're starting to find out how much making America great again is going to cost us. Bloomberg reports that President Trump's travel ban and immigration policies could cost the US billions in lost tourist dollars. We're already hurting from a strong dollar that lowers exchange rates for visitors. But now the US can expect to see 4.3 million fewer foreign visitors this year, and a loss of the $7.4 billion they would have spent according to Adam Sacks of Tourism Economics. International tourists spent $250 billion in the US in 2016. Sacks' prediction was based on data from ForwardKeys.com that showed a 14% drop in US bookings from Western Europe between Jan. 28 and Feb. 4 when compared with 2016. Mideast bookings plummeted 38%. The company says it sent its findings to the White House on March 3, prior to the release of Trump's revised travel ban. Although a federal court halted the original Jan. 27 executive order, the travel industry has warned the action will scare away tourists. Flight searches from the UK to Miami, the second most-visited city for overseas travelers, were down 52% last month compared to a year ago. Los Angeles could lose 800,000 visitors, most of them from Mexico, and $736 million in revenue. And overall business travel bookings are down $185 million since January. (Bloomberg)
I've Got the Second Amendment Blues
Just because your state is an "open carry" state doesn't quite mean anything goes. Michigan is such a state and thus any adult, not otherwise disqualified under state law, may "pack heat" in public except in a few designated zones. Still folks - you've got to use a little common sense. That seemed to be in short supply for two overly zealous Second Amendment fans - 24-year-old James Baker and 40-year-old Brandon Vreeland. The boys were under the impression that the open carry law gave them the right to march into the Dearborn police station with Baker in full body armor and ski mask, carrying a semi-automatic pistol and a sawed-off rifle - while Vreeland photographed the officers' reactions. Do we even need to tell you that yes, both were immediately arrested? (Detroit Free Press)
Worst Tasting Beers
Well there's a new list out - the top ten worst tasting beers in America. The list is based on consumer rankings (on a 0-5 scale) found on Beer Advocate. But while these brews don't win any taste tests, that doesn't mean they don't sell. Anheuser-Busch InBev and Molson Coors Brewing Company make up 69% of the US beer market but 100% of America's 25 worst-tasting beers, as compiled by 24/7 Wall St. Here are the 10 worst-tasting beers in the US and their average scores out of a possible 5:
Natural Light: 1.86
Budweiser Select 55: 1.87
Michelob Ultra: 1.88
Bud Light & Clamato Chelada: 1.89
Corona Light: 1.90
Bud Light: 1.94
Busch Light: 1.99
Keystone Light: 2.02
Natural Ice: 2.06
Coors Light: 2.06
(24/7 Wall Street)
Depressed? Watch a Nature Documentary!
Feeling down? One way to lift your spirits is to get out in the great outdoors. But if you can't do that, a new study shows that even just watching a nature documentary on TV can boost your mood. The study was commissioned by the BBC to mark the launch of its new critically-acclaimed nature series "Planet Earth II." While nature programming has long been found to bring smiles to people's faces, the BBC was curious to understand more about the connection between the two. They partnered with Professor Dacher Keltner, who studies the science of emotion at the University of California, Berkeley, and a technology startup called Crowd Emotion. Using special facial recognition software fed by webcams, the research team analyzed the expressions in real-time of 7,500 participants from the U.S., UK, South Africa and Australia. Before and after watching clips from the series, the volunteers were also asked to complete short surveys on their emotional well-being. According to the study results, those engaged in watching nature programming had significant increases in feelings of awe, amazement, wonder; curiosity, interest and wanting to explore. Conversely, feelings of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and low energy were significantly lowered. "Planet Earth II" is currently airing in the U.S. on BBC America and will likely be coming to a streaming service near you sometime later this year. For now, give yourself a boost and watch this adorable clip of an aardvark snuffling below. (MNN.com)
What the What?
Recently hired police officer Jose Acosta is off the force. Seems he had a bad habit of pulling people over and asking them for their license, registration and all the money they had! Acosta was arrested Friday and now faces charges of armed burglary and armed grand theft. He was on the force for less than a year and allegedly he would pull over drivers and scare them before seizing their belongings. He was caught in a sting operation and is currently relieved of duty without pay. (ActionNewsJax.com)