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Human brains love fake news. An MIT study just figured out why.

OK, I know you don't want to, but try to remember back to the fall of 2016.

Remember when reality TV star Donald Trump was running for president? How about the moment you realized he might actually be electable?

In my social circle, at least, that realization was met with disbelief — as well as some legitimate panic. And as more of my friends started freaking out, I noticed a meme being shared over and over by them on social media.


In it, Trump on TV, in all his '80s businessman "glory," appears next to this quote:

"If I were to run, I'd run as a Republican. They're the dumbest group of voters in the country. They love anything on Fox News. I could lie and they'd still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific."

Image via Rude & Rotten Republicans.

There are various versions of this meme, but I must have seen it at least a dozen times across Facebook and Twitter.

I assume we all know by now that it's a fake quote. But it was just as fake several years ago as it is now. My friends who shared it are smart people. Why would they share something without fact-checking it first?

After all, my friends aren't like General Flynn spreading that Pizzagate conspiracy theory about a child sex ring being run by the Clintons out of the nonexistent basement of a pizza parlor. (This was before he was hired as national security advisor, by the way.)

[rebelmouse-image 19534143 dam="1" original_size="700x400" caption="Image via Politifact." expand=1]Image via Politifact.

My friends also aren't Sandy Hook deniers clinging to the repulsive idea that the kids, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members in Newtown, Connecticut, were "crisis actors" who faked a mass shooting so the government could take away everyone's guns.

An Oxford study found that conservatives are more likely than liberals to spread misinformation, but no one is immune.

So, how does this stuff get shared so widely?

We live in a world where fake news spreads like wildfire, while the truth just ... smolders.

Last week, MIT released a study finding that fake news travels father, faster, and deeper than true stories do.

The study authors looked at approximately 126,000 tweets from 2006 to 2017 that were shared more than 4.5 million times by about 3 million people. They determined whether stories were true or false based on agreement between six different independent fact-checking organizations, and also looked at whether stories were being shared by automated bots or by humans.

What did they find? False information was 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories. Ouch.

The authors found that it took the truth about six times as long as falsehood to reach 1,500 people, and that fake stories tended to reach far more people. Accurate stories rarely made their way to more than 1,000 people, whereas the top 1% of false stories regularly spread to between 1,000 and 100,000.

The study also found that automated accounts actually share false and true stories at the same rate, which means that humans — not bots — are responsible for the proliferation of fake news.

Ugh. Let's do better, humans.

Apparently, the truth is simply too boring to share.

One way the study authors explain these results is that people like novelty. Real news stories are picked up by most major news outlets, and if they're doing journalism right, those stories aren't sensationalized. The truth is everywhere, which removes the intrigue; false stories are alluring because they're new, exciting, and unique.

Fake news also frequently has a strong political or ideological bent. People are drawn to stories that confirm their biases and evoke emotional reactions, which explains both the meme with the fake Trump quote and the obsession with Pizzagate.

It's pretty easy to cover the bases of novelty, bias, and emotion when you make stuff up out of thin air.

But we don't have to fall prey to sensationalism or our personal biases.

It may seem impossible to make people realize they're spreading fake news, but I refuse to give up hope that most people can discern the difference between fact and fiction.

I think it boils down to all of us calming down a bit and embracing — and sharing — slower stories.

When the news cycle of the 2016 election reached peak frenzy, I did a little experiment: I sought out the most reliable, unbiased, factual news sources I could find. No 24-hour cable news channels. No outlets with a clear agenda. I scoured Media Bias/Fact Check to find sources with the most reliable reporting and the least amount of bias.

I also narrowed my television news watching to C-Span and PBS News Hour. And you know what? It was surprisingly unexciting. Even with all of the upheaval going on in our politics, hearing accurate reporting largely unfiltered and without commentary was, frankly, fairly boring.

But boring news is not a bad thing.

It's a wonder how someone can complain so much about fake news while also actively promoting it. Photo from the Daily Show's Trump Twitter Library via Scott Olson/Getty.

We can all do our part to uphold the truth by making use of various fact-checking websites like Politifact, FactCheck, and Snopes. Every meme or link from a source we're unsure of should be run through these checks. There are people out there doing the digging work, so we should take advantage of that.

But most importantly, we need to check our own reactions to stories. According to the MIT study, people's emotional responses to real stories and fake stories differ. The authors noted that "false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies" while "true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust." Taking note of how we feel when we see a story can give us a clue as to its reliability.

Check memes and stories. Check your reactions to them. Check your biases.

We may not be able to stop the spread of fake news, but we can definitely keep from spreading it ourselves.

Joy

Watch a timid shelter dog named 'Venom' transform with some tender care and a new name

Rocky Kanaka knew "Venom" wasn't a fitting name for this sweet girl, and he sat with her to earn her trust.

Venom was unsure at first but warmed up after a while.

Dogs are a man's best friend, as the saying goes, but that's only true when humans treat them as they should be treated. When someone neglects, abuses or otherwise mistreats a dog, their sense of trust in human companionship gets disrupted and doesn't come as naturally as it should.

It's common to see issue with dogs who end up in shelters. They might be timid, suspicious or fearful, and living in a kennel in a shelter away from everything familiar doesn't help. Even if a shelter is better than the unhealthy situation they came from, it's certainly not ideal, which is one reason Rocky Kanaka goes to visit and sit with shelter dogs. If he can help a dog feel safe and convince it to to trust him, he kick-starts the process of repairing the dog-human bond.


One dog Kanaka sat with was a 3-year-old black Shepherd mix named "Venom." She was curled up in the corner of her kennel and wasn't too keen on having him coming into her space. She wasn't aggressive, but guarded. Her self-protective instincts seemed on, so Kanaka took it very slow.

He began by turning his back to her and squatting down, not interacting with her other than to speak soothingly, just to let her get used to his presence. He brought some treats, which he shared with her before sitting down. She kept looking at him with a mix of curiosity and trepidation, and Kanaka respected her space.

He found out she had been at the shelter for 10 days, which Kanaka said was bad because if a dog is still in this kind of nervous state after 10 days in the shelter, it's harder for them to get adopted. Soon, he got her to take treats from his hand, which enabled him to move a little closer to her—the goal being to eventually get her to approach him.

Then Kanaka got her story, including that her name was Venom and this was her second time in the shelter. The first time, her owners were on vacation, The second time a good samaritan brought her in, and the shelter couldn't get a hold of the owners. When they were finally reached, the owners said that she had not been behaving well with their smaller dog and they didn't want her anymore.

Kanaka didn't cast judgment on the owners for giving her up, but he was totally taken aback by her given name.

"Come on. Venom? She is anything but that. It should be like, Honeysuckle, you know? Or something sweet. Something sweet like Honey. I think that's her name, Honey."

Watch how this sweet puppers slowly warms up to Kanaka and begins to trust him:

Watching her eventually melt into a state of relaxation as Kanaka scratched her head was so rewarding. You can tell that she's a good girl who's been through some rough times, and she'd be an incredible dog for someone who took good care of her.

"Her eyes and brows are so expressive. You can read the concern in her face," wrote one commenter.

"That poor baby is heart broken. She knows she was left and lost family. I feel you baby," wrote another.

"What a sweet little fluff," shared another. "How could anyone just abandon her and not think she's worth the fee will baffle me for all of time. And to call her 'Venom' is not only an insult to her, but an insight into the life she could have previously had and how her last 'owners thought of her. Can't wait for her to find her forever home and finally get all the love she deserves."

Thankfully, according to an update on Kanaka's website, Honey was adopted on March 8, 2024. So hopefully, she did find a forever home with people who will appreciate and nurture her naturally sweet disposition and give her the life she should have.

You can follow Rocky Kanaka for more "Sitting with Dogs" videos on YouTube and on his website rockykanaka.com.

Democracy

What to know about the 1864 abortion ban Arizona's Supreme Court says is 'now enforceable'

The legal code it comes from also outlaws interracial marriage and forbids minorities from testifying against white people in court.

Peter Zillmann (HPZ)/Wikimedia Commons, Brandon Friedman/Twitter

Arizona's borders may soon be even more consequential.

When the 2022 Dobbs decision overturned the federal protection of medical privacy in reproductive decisions, leaving abortion law up to the states, experts warned of the legal and medical consequences to come: People in states with old laws on the books would find themselves facing abortion restrictions the likes of which had not been seen in over 50 years since Roe vs. Wade became "settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court," and medical providers would face legal conundrums that threatened patient care.

Nearly two years later, we've seen the fallout on multiple fronts, from women suing states for denying them medically necessary care to children who have been raped and impregnated being forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion.

And the latest development has Arizona set to enact a near-total abortion ban based on a 1864 legal code, after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the law "it is now enforceable."

Here's what to know about the 160-year-old law:


There is only one abortion exception allowed for in the law—to save the life of the mother. As medical providers have made clear, that kind of exception is a murky gray area that leads to impossible questions like "How imminent does a mother's death need to be?" for a doctor to take action without fearing legal repercussions.

Civil War-era historian Heather Cox Richardson shared some of the details about how the law came about and the context in which it was written on Facebook, and the historical facts paint a picture of how utterly absurd it is for the law to go into effect in 2024.

"In 1864, Arizona was not a state, women and minorities could not vote, and doctors were still sewing up wounds with horsehair and storing their unwashed medical instruments in velvet-lined cases," wrote Richardson. She pointed out that the U.S. was in the midst of the Civil War, and that the law didn't actually have much to do with women and reproductive care.

"The laws for Arizona Territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men," she explained, sharing that the word "miscarriage" was used in the criminal code to describe various forms of harm against another person, specifying dueling with, maiming and poisoning other people.

Richardson offered that detail as the context in which the law states that "a person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years."

How did the law even come about? At that time, the newly formed Arizona Territorial Legislature was composed of 27 men. The first thing they did was authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to draft a code of laws, but a judge named William T. Howell had already written one up. After some discussion, the legislators enacted Howell's laws, known as "The Howell Code."

The code included laws like, "No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to give evidence in favor of or against any white person," as well as "All marriages of white persons with negroes or mulattoes are declared to be illegal and void."

Richardson also pointed out that the code set the age of consent for sexual intercourse at 10-years-old.

Essentially, a law written by one man, 48 years before Arizona was officially a state, over half a century before women were allowed to vote, when it was perfectly legal to enact and enforce racist laws and see 10-year-olds as old enough to consent to sex, is now considered "enforceable" by the Arizona Supreme Court.

As Richardson pointed out, the difference now is that women can vote. And Americans have proven time and again that draconian abortion laws are wildly unpopular across the political spectrum. Even some Republican lawmakers and politicians are flip-flopping on previous praise for the 1864 law, saying that the Arizona legislature needs to do something about the law to prevent it from taking effect.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.


They were also there to shoot scenes for a documentary. And while they were hoping to capture some cool moments on camera, no one expected a huge chunk of a glacier to snap clean off and slide into the ocean right in front of their eyes.


science, calving, glaciers

A glacier falls into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

ocean swells, sea level, erosion, going green

Massive swells created by large chunks of glacier falling away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

It was the largest such event ever filmed.

For nearly an hour and 15 minutes, Balog and his crew stood by and watched as a piece of ice the size of lower Manhattan — but with ice-equivalent buildings that were two to three times taller than that — simply melted away.

geological catastrophe, earth, glacier melt

A representation demonstrating the massive size of ice that broke off into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

As far as anyone knows, this was an unprecedented geological catastrophe and they caught the entire thing on tape. It won't be the last time something like this happens either.

But once upon a time, Balog was openly skeptical about that "global warming" thing.

Balog had a reputation since the early 1980s as a conservationist and environmental photographer. And for nearly 20 years, he'd scoffed at the climate change heralds shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

"I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet. It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible," he explained in the 2012 documentary film "Chasing Ice."

There was too much margin of error in the computer simulations, too many other pressing problems to address about our beautiful planet. As far as he was concerned, these melodramatic doomsayers were distracting from the real issues.

That was then.

Greenland, Antarctica, glacier calving

The glacier ice continues to erode away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

In fact, it wasn't until 2005 that Balog became a believer.

He was sent on a photo expedition of the Arctic by National Geographic, and that first northern trip was more than enough to see the damage for himself.

"It was about actual tangible physical evidence that was preserved in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica," he said in a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress. "That was really the smoking gun showing how far outside normal, natural variation the world has become. And that's when I started to really get the message that this was something consequential and serious and needed to be dealt with."

Some of that evidence may have been the fact that more Arctic landmass has melted away in the last 20 years than the previous 10,000 years.

Watch the video of the event of the glacier calving below:

This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

A tourist visiting Italy. (Representative image)

Americans pride themselves on living in the “best country in the world.” However, the American way of life isn’t for everyone and some prefer the more laid-back approach to life that people enjoy in Europe.

Four years ago, a writer named Roze left her tiny apartment in Los Angeles, booked a one-way flight to Turn, Italy and never looked back. Now, she documents her new life in Europe on TikTok to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Recently, she posted a video in which she counts down 5 things that she’ll never do now that she lives in Italy. These are examples of the relief some Americans feel when they move to Europe and settle into their new, stress-free lifestyle.


1. Rush

"One of the first things that attracted me to Italian culture is the fact that people don't seem to be in a rush. There are no drive-thrus. People don't walk and eat. If you need a coffee, you sit down and drink a cup of coffee. There's always time for that."

2. Own a car

"I don't plan on ever living in a place where you need a car to get around. I don’t like the expense of a car and it’s just bad for the environment.”

3. Live for work

“I’ll never obsess about work as much as I used to do in the U.S. Now, I'm not saying that people don't work here. People work very hard, but there's not as many people who make working hard their whole personality."

@rozeinitaly

A few ways my perspective has changed since moving abroad, maybe some other American immigrants can relate? #fivethingschallenge #5thingsiwouldneverdo #5thingschallenge #americanimmigrant #movingabroadtips #expatsinitaly #italylifestyle #lifeinitaly🇮🇹

4. Trust the internet for business hours

"If you look it up on Google Maps, it says that it's open from 10 am to, I think, 7 or 7:30 pm. Does that mean I can go there at like 2:30 3 o'clock? No. What is not listed on there is that they are closed from 1 to 4 for lunch."

5. Worry about medical bills

“I just don’t plan on living anywhere where there is not some kind of universal healthcare.”

A group of travelers waits patiently to check their bags.

Maybe you’re one of those elite travelers who’s mastered packing for an entire trip using only carry-on luggage. If so, you’re likely haughty and won’t stop crowing about the convenience of hopping off the plane and jetting to your destination.

We know: The airlines lost your bag in 1986 and you vowed never again. So, now you roll three garments, one pair of shoes, a tiny bottle of 5-in-one body wash, and a Kindle into your backpack, and you're good to go.

For the rest of us mere traveling mortals, especially those with kids, checking bags is a necessary evil—a necessary and costly one.

If it seems to you like checked bag fees have been steadily climbing, that’s because checked bag fees have been steadily climbing. According to this article, bag fees on American Airlines rose 33% just last year from $30 per bag to $40 and 5 of the 6 biggest carriers raised their fees last year.

Why is the entire industry upping their checked-bag fees? There’s a specific reason involving an arcane bit of tax code, which accounts for why the fees are tacked on separately versus rolled into the price of the ticket.


Jay L. Zagorsky, a business school professor who studies travel, says 7.5% of every domestic ticket goes to the federal government. Airlines dislike this, claiming it raises ticket prices for consumers. But as long as the bag fee is separate, it is excluded from the 7.5% transportation tax.

Estimated bag fees for 2023 topped 7 billion. By making the bag fees separate, airlines saved themselves about half a billion dollars. If that savings has been passed down to the customer, then we all got a bit of a break, too.

Perhaps you automatically dislike the separate fees because you’re Gen X and remember a time when a ticket was all-inclusive. Now, it feels like you’re paying for stuff you used to get for free.

Turns out that more and more travelers actually like the separate charges.

“One thing that our research has shown,” Henry Hartevedlt, president of travel industry analytics firm Atmosphere Research told USA Today, “is that more than two-thirds of U.S. leisure airline passengers now feel that the unbundling of the coach product and letting people buy what they want and need on an à la carte basis is actually something they like because it helps them stick to their budget.”

This is a positive way to look at something that’s undoubtedly here to stay. And now if you hear someone complain about bag fees at the airport, you’ll know why it’s done the way it’s done, which is really sweet satisfaction in itself.

Of course, there's always this unusual workaround courtesy of Reddit user Old_Man_Withers, "I Fedex my luggage to the hotel and carry nothing on the plane but my laptop for work. It doesn't matter if it's 2 days or two months, I ship it. The hotel has it waiting in my room when I get there and I ship it back home from there when I'm done. No random inspections, no chances of loss without recompense, fully trackable... I see no downside that isn't worth the 50-100 bucks it costs."

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"/Youtube

Coco is back, baby.

Conan O’Brien had a blink-and-you-missed-it run as “Tonight Show” host. After only a year, he was unceremoniously laid off in 2010 by NBC due to a contractual dispute and replaced by former host Jay Leno, followed by Jimmy Fallon in 2014.

But despite his short-lived reign, O’Brien cemented himself as a wickedly funny and whip smart performer, as well as a master of recurring gags, self-deprecating humor and engaging conversation…not to mention developing a reputation for being a pretty great guy off the air.

Which is why fans were excited to see O’Brien appear as a “Tonight Show” guest for Tuesday’s episode, marking a return to his old stomping grounds for the first time in 14 years. And let’s just say…O’Brien’s comeback did not disappoint.


During parts of the interview, O’Brien exuded that same amount of candid poise that he famously maintained throughout the 2010 controversy. Like when he talked about podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” the project that followed his “Tonight Show” exit, he said he still considered hosting a late-night show “the best job in the world,” but shared his appreciation for the podcast format since it allows for longer, more in-depth conversations with guests.

But along with all the sentimentality were trademark rapid fire zingers and absurdly dramatic outbursts, especially when talking about how “weird” it felt to be back at Rockefeller Center.

"I was here for 16 years doing the ‘Late Night’ show," O'Brien told Jimmy Fallon (both “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show” filmed in the same building.

"When someone else is in your studio it feels weird. So I walked in and said, 'Who's in my old studio?' And they said 'Kelly Clarkson'. And I love Kelly Clarkson, who doesn't love Kelly Clarkson? But still I felt like, IT'S NOT RIGHT! BLASPHEMY! THEY SHOULD HAVE BURNED IT TO THE GROUND!"

"And then Kelly came out to say hi and I said, DON'T TALK TO ME! YOU MAKE ME SICK!!"

Man, O'Brien really knows how to commit to the bit. Watch:

O’Brien’s interview was so well received that fans seemed to fall in love with him all over again.

“Conan returns to the Tonight Show in TRIUMPHHH being one of the greatest of all time.”

“Conan is going down in history as one of the greatest to ever do it!”

“Conan's career is a true testament to the saying ‘Everything happens for a reason.’”

“This hit me right in the feels.”

“The man's a national treasure, give him everything.”

If you’re left wanting even more Coco, O’Brien has a new series, “Conan O’Brien Must Go,” which debuts on April 18 on Max. Talk about a full circle moment.