What should the media do when campaigns lie? Plus, the best of the web this week.

How journalists should fact-check politicians. What police officers know that the rest of us don't. How the poor, middle class, and rich spend their money. A super-cool new technology coming in December. And more. Enjoy!


Politics and World Affairs

A Not-Very-Truthful Speech In A Not-Very-Truthful Campaign / Ezra Klein / The Washington Post

Klein tries "to bend over backward to be fair, to see it from Ryan's perspective," but finds it hard to be balanced amid Ryan's, and the campaign's, calculated dishonesty.




Obama Needs 80% Of Minority Vote To Win 2012 Election / Ron Brownstein / National Journal

A look at the demographic equations defining this election. The last paragraph suggests some major changes are in store for the Republican party.




Four More Years? / The Economist

The Economist is underwhelmed. "The defence of Mr Obama's record comes down to one phrase: it could all have been a lot worse."




I Am Barack Obama, President Of The United States—AMA / Barack Obama / Reddit

Obama takes (softball) questions from the horde. Interesting to read his writing style, and there's some really funny stuff in here, including someone who corrects his grammar.




Arts and Culture

What It's Like For A Deaf Person To Hear Music For The First Time / Rebecca Rosen / The Atlantic

A 23-year-old gets a new hearing aid, and with the help of friends and the Internet, discovers everything from Mozart to Sigur Rós.




What Have You Learned As A Police Officer About Life And Society That Most People Don't Know Or Underestimate? / Tim Dees / Quora

A fun list, including this: "Although they may not know it, there are people who find [your] hot buttons instinctively, and they live to push them."




52 Suburbs Around The World / Louise Hawson

A photographer takes a year off to travel the world with her daughter, documenting life in the suburbs of great global cities. (via @nickfraser)




Lance Armstrong's Secret Is Out / Christopher Keyes / Outside

A new book from Armstrong's former teammate "isn't just a game changer for the Lance Armstrong myth. It's the game ender." Also interesting on the weight of carrying a lie.




It's My Life What Ever I Wanna Do / Vennu Mallesh / YouTube

Oh, man. Prepare yourself for this, um, difficult-to-describe Indian music video. Rebecca Black, you have been eclipsed.




Business and Economics

How The Poor, The Middle Class, And The Rich Spend Their Money / Jacob Goldstein and Lam Vo / NPR

A simple graph. "Both the similarities and differences are striking." The rest of the graphs in the series, "Graphing America," look interesting as well.





How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read / Andrew Shaffer / Mental Floss

In 1939, a movie cost 20 cents, but a hardcover book cost $2.75. And yet, the idea of a cheap paperback was seen by the publishing industry as crazy. Great example of how incumbents can stifle innovation.





Gimme The Loot / Gavin Mueller / Jacobin

Fascinating take on piracy through the ages, from Blackbeard to Kim Dotcom. I had no idea pirates ran their ships so democratically.





A Hyper Cool (And Controversial) Rebranding For American Airlines / Anna Kovecses / CoDesign

I love this redesign.




Teen Titan / Lizzie Widdicombe / The New Yorker

A profile of Scooter Braun, "the man who made Justin Bieber," and who still manages to come across as surprisingly not terrible.




Science and Technology

The Andreessen Horowitz Effect / Erick Schonfeld / Techonomy

Profile of one of the most successful, and aggressive, venture capital shops in Silicon Valley. The list of companies they back is truly impressive.




In Defence Of TED / Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry / The Kernel

"If we resisted the siren call of feeling smugly superior ... we could perhaps see TED for what it actually is: a media company that has been very successful" at popularizing ideas.




The Most Important Technology Since The Smartphone Arrives December 2012 / Christopher Mims / Technology Review

Short article and really cool demo video for a product called Leap Motion, which its founder promises will be even better than the technology in "Minority Report."




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sign up to receive the Best of the Web in your inbox each week.




True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less