As John Oliver pointed out on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday, it costs 1.7 cents to make each penny, so they lose money the moment they’re created.
“That really makes the phrase you have to spend money to make money ring painfully true,” Oliver said.
Pennies are so worthless that people won’t stop to pick them up, and 2 percent of Americans admit to throwing them in the garbage. And if you think tossing them in the trash is bad, Oliver found a reddit thread titled, “I put a penny in my butt and now I can’t get it out.”
Turns out the person did it because, “I wanted to know what it would feel like to put a cold penny up my butt. (I put it in the fridge for like… 2-3 hours)”
Oliver even found a case of a dog that ate 111 pennies.
He said there’s really only two things pennies are good for. First, you can throw them into a fountain to make a wish — although given the low value of the penny, that wish would have to be small.
Oliver suggested, “I wish somewhere in the world a mouse has a good day” or, “I wish I knew what a penny looked like underwater.”
And second, they can be used out of spite — like when people pay parking tickets in pennies.
Oliver said other countries have gotten rid of worthless coins, including the United States, which did away with the half cent in 1857 — so maybe the time is right to finally get rid of the full cent, too.
“There are certain things we know are impossible to get rid of: terrorism, herpes and Guy Fieri,” Oliver said. “But the penny is a nuisance we can actually do something about. So let’s do it, America. Let’s get the penny out of our pockets… out of our dogs… out of our fridges… and out of our asses. We can do this!”
But before you start packing your suitcase and pull up “Ahwahnee Hotel” on your travel-deal-website-of-choice to book reservations, there’s something you should know:
The Ahwahnee Hotel is now The Majestic Yosemite Hotel and it’s not the only Yosemite site to have recently undergone an underwhelming renaming.
Curry Village, a small lodging town in the valley near the famous Half Dome rock formation, is now known as Half Dome Village.
The Wawona Hotel, which was built in 1876, is now known as Big Trees Lodge.
Basically, the original and historic names of many locations in Yosemite have been changed to reflect the jumble of keywords you’d enter in Google if you forgot their real names.
If you’ve ever eaten at a national park (that is, eaten something besides the squished sandwich and granola bar in your backpack), you may have noticed that much of the food is provided by private companies, not the government.
Which, in theory, is pretty cool.
It allows the parks to make money by selling retail and dining space, and park visitors get to come back from their hikes to enjoy perfectly seared, bone-in rib eyes.
Until recently, concession sites at Yosemite were handled by a company called Delaware North, a multibillion-dollar organization that claims to be “one of the largest hospitality management companies serving national and state parks.”
Delaware North took over concessions at Yosemite in 1993, and when it did, according to company spokeswoman Lisa Cesaro, it also had to purchase “the assets of the previous concessionaire, including its intellectual property at a cost of $115 million in todays dollars.”
In plain-speak, that means that the rights to names like “Ahwahnee” and “Wawona” were part of the package Delaware North purchased.
Delaware North had to hand concession rights over to another company called Aramark. Delaware North also demanded to be paid back for the names it bought, asking for $51 million. The government thought that price was a “gross exaggeration” and valued the names at $3.5 million.
That conflict is still settling. But Delaware North has essentially said that while it still wants the $51 million, the National Park Service can keep the names the same … for now.
The National Park Service then, for some reason (presumably to minimize damages), went ahead and changed all the names in Yosemite anyway.
The NPS even spent an estimated $1.7 million on temporary new signs in the process:
The National Park Service may ultimately win the names back. But for now, staying at the Ahwahnee Hotel or Curry Village is a thing of the past.
In fact, T-shirts bearing the name “Yosemite National Park” have already been removed from some of the park’s gift shops.
This is a huge deal! Half the reason to go to a national park is to get a hoodie with the name of the park on it. That way you can tell your awesome hiking story every time someone asks about it.
Plus … gorgeous postcards like this one?
Those would be removed from stores as well. If Delaware North’s trademark claim is upheld, you wouldn’t even be able to mail-brag about your sweet hiking trip to your friends back home in Nebraska.
Worse yet, the National Park Service might have to start selling postcards at national park locations featuring their new, way-too-on-the-nose, generic park names like There Are Waterfalls Here National Park or The Big One in California National Park.
Like this one in Arizona.
Or this one, from South Dakota.
Or from this famous park in Wyoming.
Besides being lodged into the memories of millions of families who’ve passed through the park in the past 90 years, the names of Yosemite’s historic sites have significant cultural value.
“Ahwahnee,” which means “big mouth,” is the Native American name for Yosemite’s central valley. “Wawona” is thought to be an onomatopoeia for the sound of the great horned owl believed to be a guardian spirit of the area.
Changing the names of these places erases their history; those names have been around way longer than the National Park System.
The very act that created the National Park Service stipulates that the care and conservation of the parks and wildlife therein is for the enjoyment of people and future generations.
We visit national parks with our families. We create memories there and share pictures on Instagram to get the most Likes. We pay for the upkeep and survival of the parks with our tax dollars. We make laws to protect them and protest when they’re in danger. They’re ours.
They should belong to all of us.
Filmmaker Ken Burns once called the National Park System “America’s best idea,” which is saying a lot … after all, this is the country that invented the space shuttle, the cheeseburger, and christened the sacred marriage of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins in stores across the country.
But Great Ideas are what America does.
It’s definitely not a Great Idea to have the names of our historic and beautiful national parks wrapped up in a petty intellectual property battle.
That’s not what our national parks are here for.
They’re for loving, cherishing, and gazing up at views like this:
The names of the places we visit are a key factor in the lifelong memories we create there. No company should be able to take that away.
Cleveland police are looking for Spam.
The ironically-named 15-pound mini pet pig was taken during a home break-in Monday, officials said.
“It’s just sad somebody would do this,” owner Valerie Couch told News 5 Cleveland. “My guess is they just want to sell him and make money. But you know. He’s part of our family. Keep the electronics, but don’t take somebody’s pet.”
She said she has owned the 1-year-old mini pig since he was just a piglet.
“He’s a spitfire, so he’s probably driving somebody crazy right now,” Couch said. “So just bring him back to his home where we can take care of him the right way.”
Couch’s dog and cat were left safely inside the home.
Couch posted about the theft on Facebook.
Police said they are investigating the incident, adding the thief entered via a back window that had been popped open and removed. Jewelry, TVs and a camera were also stolen.
Couch said on Facebook a neighbor told police she saw an unfamiliar tall, thin man – aged 18 to 21 – exit a black two-door vehicle that was backed in front of their home.Continue reading
Ode to Jimmy, My Mentor and Friend and Such a GD Mensch
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You do NOT mess with Bella Hadid’s sister!
There is apparently major beef boiling up between supermodels of the past and the new crop of women who make money looking great on runways.
OK, maybe not major beef but, like, enough beef to make you go, Hmmm, dats a lil’ beef, and then move on with your day.
Theyare completely different than we were. Supermodels are sort of the thing of the past. They deserve their own title. [Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid] are beautiful girls, and I support all of them, but they need their own title.
She then concluded,
Bitches of the moment! That would be a good title for them.
Stephanie is far from the only crotchety old guard of models taking a big deuce on celebs like Hadid and Jenner. Rebecca Romijn offered up a similarsentiment during an interview with ET, saying,
[I] hate it that these, you know, social media stars are now the supermodels in fashion. They are not true supermodels… I have been disappointed that fashion magazines have been supporting this trend of social media stars to set our style standards.
After the comments were made, Kendall defendedherself on her website, telling subscribers,
No one is trying to steal Stephanie Seymour’s thing, or trying to be her I guarantee you that she didn’t imagine someone so publicly shaming her daughter when she made those comments about us being ‘bitches of the moment’…
If people want to call Gigi and I supermodels now, it doesn’t take anything away from supermodels of the past. Obviously, I have so much respect for those women, but right now, we’re the models of this time.
Stephanie’s words may have been unintentionally hurtful, though. She posted an apology on her Instagram to Gigi and Kendall dispelling rumors of a rift between her and newer models.
Bella Hadid is now making surenobody talks shit about her sister or Kendall.
In a recent interview with Glamour, shesaid,
It’s crazy. I’ve worked with Stephanie before and loved her; she was sweet to me. I don’t know if she meant it in that mean way. But even so, it’s still hurtful. My sister and Kendall work their asses off. We’re all working hard. You just have to let your success speak for itself because at the end of the day, we’re making our money… I don’t want anybody to fail. Why would you wish that upon somebody? If you’re a powerful woman and you’re confident in yourself, you want other people to succeed.
NOBODY MESSES WITH THE HADIDS!
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Yes, she's judging you: Luvvie Ajayi on writing a bestselling life
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Shopify Inc. tumbled the most ever after Citron Research said it was shorting the stock and alleged that the Canadian e-commerce company’s rapid user growth was based off customers who would never become sustainable businesses.
In a tweet, video rebuke, and post on his website, Citron founder Andrew Left called Ottawa-based Shopify a “get-rich-quick” scheme and “dirtier” than Herbalife Ltd., which has been targeted by regulators for deceptive business practices.
Shopify helps small merchants set up online stores. Citron’s report alleges the vast majority of them are recruited by promoters promising the website is an easy way to make money without doing much work, and that eventually the company’s growth will crumble when these merchants fail. Shopify fell 12 percent to $103.30 at the close of trading in New York, its biggest one-day drop since going public in May 2015.
A spokeswoman for Shopify declined to comment on the report. Citron’s allegations raise a key question: how sustainable is the rapid revenue growth that has propelled Shopify into one of the most highly valued software companies in North America?
The company has always celebrated the fact that most of its users aren’t established businesses, but instead regular people inspired to start selling online by how easy it is to set up a Shopify store.
In an interview in August, Shopify Chief Operating Officer Harley Finkelstein readily admitted that many businesses on the platform fail, but said the point of the company is to make it easy and cheap for merchants to experiment with new ideas and eventually find success.
“We’re not changing physics here, some small businesses simply don’t work,” Finkelstein said. “But the ones that do succeed will stay with us for a very long time.”
Left, who’s perhaps best known for his unsparing assessments of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., said marketing material on Shopify’s website that called it “the online store for someday millionaires” was a violation of U.S. Federal Trade Commission rules that say a company must back up exactly how a customer can become a millionaire with its products.
Nutrition company Herbalife agreed to pay $200 million and make sweeping changes to its businesses after the FTC prohibited the company from claiming that “members can ‘quit their job’ or otherwise enjoy a lavish lifestyle.”
A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment on Shopify.
Left also accused Shopify of paying bloggers and influencers to promote the company.
“This is an $11 billion company that loses money, trading at over 20 times sales, that also is marketing illegally,” Left said in an interview on Bloomberg Television, adding that Shopify has “violated every FTC rule imaginable.”
“I’m still short the stock and I’ll stay short the stock,” he said. “This has got a lot more way to go on the downside.”
Citron’s report is “largely off-base” and the falling share price creates a buying opportunity, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co.
Sebastian said he surveyed Shopify sellers and more than 90 percent said they hadn’t seen an ad claiming they could become millionaires, and a survey of Shopify ads found only 1 of 20 contained the world “millionaire.”
“We view the short call as a new overhang on shares, but also a buying opportunity for investors as we view the report as perhaps significantly overstating the impact of ‘millionaire’ ads as a driver of Shopify’s business,” Sebastian wrote in a note.
There’s no doubt a vibrant online community has sprung up to encourage more people to use Shopify. Dozens of groups exist for discussions about best practices, and motivational speaker-type figures put on seminars about how to build a profitable business on the platform with the least amount of work necessary.
Entire companies have been created around Shopify, from advertising agencies who help users promote their products to Printful.com, which custom-prints T-shirts, posters and mugs for people to sell on Shopify stores.
The question of how and when Shopify pays third-party promoters to get people to sign up for its stores does need more transparency, but it’s not an existential risk for the company, James Cakmak, an analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co., said in a phone interview.
“This is going to be something where the results will speak for themselves in the coming quarter,” said Cakmak, who has the equivalent of a hold rating on Shopify. “I’m not worried about that.”
If you get your news from social media, as most Americans do, you are exposed to a daily dose of hoaxes, rumors, conspiracy theories and misleading news. When its all mixed in with reliable information from honest sources, the truth can be very hard to discern.
Many are asking whether this onslaught of digital misinformation affected the outcome of the 2016 U.S. election. The truth is we do not know, although there are reasons to believe it is entirely possible, based on past analysis and accounts from other countries. Each piece of misinformation contributes to the shaping of our opinions. Overall, the harm can be very real: If people can be conned into jeopardizing our childrens lives, as they do when they opt out of immunizations, why not our democracy?
As a researcher on the spread of misinformation through social media, I know that limiting news fakers ability to sell ads, as recently announced by Google and Facebook, is a step in the right direction. But it will not curb abuses driven by political motives.
Exploiting social media
About 10 years ago, my colleagues and I ran an experiment in which we learned 72 percent of college students trusted links that appeared to originate from friends even to the point of entering personal login information on phishing sites. This widespread vulnerability suggested another form of malicious manipulation: People might also believe misinformation they receive when clicking on a link from a social contact.
To explore that idea, I created a fake web page with random, computer-generated gossip news things like Celebrity X caught in bed with Celebrity Y! Visitors to the site who searched for a name would trigger the script to automatically fabricate a story about the person. I included on the site a disclaimer, saying the site contained meaningless text and made-up facts. I also placed ads on the page. At the end of the month, I got a check in the mail with earnings from the ads. That was my proof: Fake news could make money by polluting the internet with falsehoods.
Sadly, I was not the only one with this idea. Ten years later, we have an industry of fake news and digital misinformation. Clickbait sites manufacture hoaxes to make money from ads, while so-called hyperpartisan sites publish and spread rumors and conspiracy theories to influence public opinion.
This industry is bolstered by how easy it is to create social bots, fake accounts controlled by software that look like real people and therefore can have real influence. Research in my lab uncovered many examples of fake grassroots campaigns, also called political astroturfing.
In response, we developed the BotOrNot tool to detect social bots. Its not perfect, but accurate enough to uncover persuasion campaigns in the Brexit and antivax movements. Using BotOrNot, our colleagues found that a large portion of online chatter about the 2016 elections was generated by bots.
Creating information bubbles
We humans are vulnerable to manipulation by digital misinformation thanks to a complex set of social, cognitive, economic and algorithmic biases. Some of these have evolved for good reasons: Trusting signals from our social circles and rejecting information that contradicts our experience served us well when our species adapted to evade predators. But in todays shrinking online networks, a social network connection with a conspiracy theorist on the other side of the planet does not help inform my opinions.
Copying our friends and unfollowing those with different opinions give us echo chambers so polarized that researchers can tell with high accuracy whether you are liberal or conservative by just looking at your friends. The network structure is so dense that any misinformation spreads almost instantaneously within one group, and so segregated that it does not reach the other.
Inside our bubble, we are selectively exposed to information aligned with our beliefs. That is an ideal scenario to maximize engagement, but a detrimental one for developing healthy skepticism. Confirmation bias leads us to share a headline without even reading the article.
Our lab got a personal lesson in this when our own research project became the subject of a vicious misinformation campaign in the run-up to the 2014 U.S. midterm elections. When we investigated what was happening, we found fake news stories about our research being predominantly shared by Twitter users within one partisan echo chamber, a large and homogeneous community of politically active users. These people were quick to retweet and impervious to debunking information.
Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, CC BY-ND
Our research shows that given the structure of our social networks and our limited attention, it is inevitable that some memes will go viral, irrespective of their quality. Even if individuals tend to share information of higher quality, the network as a whole is not effective at discriminating between reliable and fabricated information. This helps explain all the viral hoaxes we observe in the wild.
The attention economy takes care of the rest: If we pay attention to a certain topic, more information on that topic will be produced. Its cheaper to fabricate information and pass it off as fact than it is to report actual truth. And fabrication can be tailored to each group: Conservatives read that the pope endorsed Trump, liberals read that he endorsed Clinton. He did neither.
Beholden to algorithms
Since we cannot pay attention to all the posts in our feeds, algorithms determine what we see and what we dont. The algorithms used by social media platforms today are designed to prioritize engaging posts ones were likely to click on, react to and share. But a recent analysis found intentionally misleading pages got at least as much online sharing and reaction as real news.
This algorithmic bias toward engagement over truth reinforces our social and cognitive biases. As a result, when we follow links shared on social media, we tend to visit a smaller, more homogeneous set of sources than when we conduct a search and visit the top results.
Existing research shows that being in an echo chamber can make people more gullible about accepting unverified rumors. But we need to know a lot more about how different people respond to a single hoax: Some share it right away, others fact-check it first.
We are simulating a social network to study this competition between sharing and fact-checking. We are hoping to help untangle conflicting evidence about when fact-checking helps stop hoaxes from spreading and when it doesnt. Our preliminary results suggest that the more segregated the community of hoax believers, the longer the hoax survives. Again, its not just about the hoax itself but also about the network.
Many people are trying to figure out what to do about all this. According to Mark Zuckerbergs latest announcement, Facebook teams are testing potential options. And a group of college students has proposed a way to simply label shared links as verified or not.
Some solutions remain out of reach, at least for the moment. For example, we cant yet teach artificial intelligence systems how to discern between truth and falsehood. But we can tell ranking algorithms to give higher priority to more reliable sources.
Studying the spread of fake news
We can make our fight against fake news more efficient if we better understand how bad information spreads. If, for example, bots are responsible for many of the falsehoods, we can focus attention on detecting them. If, alternatively, the problem is with echo chambers, perhaps we could design recommendation systems that dont exclude differing views.
To that end, our lab is building a platform called Hoaxy to track and visualize the spread of unverified claims and corresponding fact-checking on social media. That will give us real-world data, with which we can inform our simulated social networks. Then we can test possible approaches to fighting fake news.
Hoaxy may also be able to show people how easy it is for their opinions to be manipulated by online information and even how likely some of us are to share falsehoods online. Hoaxy will join a suite of tools in our Observatory on Social Media, which allows anyone to see how memes spread on Twitter. Linking tools like these to human fact-checkers and social media platforms could make it easier to minimize duplication of efforts and support each other.
It is imperative that we invest resources in the study of this phenomenon. We need all hands on deck: Computer scientists, social scientists, economists, journalists and industry partners must work together to stand firm against the spread of misinformation.Continue reading