Japan Signs Off on First Human-Animal Hybrids but Why God Why?

john candy as barf in spaceballs

Whelp, here’s an idea that couldn’t possibly go wrong: Japan has become the first country to create animal embryos that contain human cells, resulting in a human-animal chimera or humanimal. Japan’s science ministry has approved the project spearheaded by scientist Hiromitsu Nakauchi, who currently leads teams at both the University of Tokyo and Stanford University.

His plan is to grow human cells in mouse and rat embryos and then transplant those embryos into surrogate animals. Eventually, Nakauchi hopes to produce animals with organs made of human cells that can be used for human organ transplants in the future. This isn’t the first time science has developed human animal hybrids: in 2015, scientists developed pig-human hybrids for similar reasons, but Nakauchi’s landmark experiment will be the first one that sees the embryos brought to term.

But thanks to a change in Japanese law that forbade animal-human embryos to grow past 14 weeks and forbade them being implanted in a surrogate uterus, these animal-human chimeras will be allowed to develop full-term. So here’s the thing: if science fiction and horror genres are anything to go by, this seems like an extraordinarily terrible idea. As we’ve learned from stories ranging from ancient mythology to The Island of Dr. Moreau to The Fly to the living nightmare that is the new Cats trailer, humans and animals shouldn’t mix.

These developments unlock a Pandora’s box of questions both ethical and moral, designed to puzzle scientists and philosophers for years. But despite literally every folk tale, fable, work of literature or pop culture entry that sees man toy with nature, this seems inherently dicey. As Dr. Ian Malcolm says in Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

But before we get bogged down in questions like “will we finally have talking dogs” and “does this mean I can really be Spider-Man?”, Nakauchi has assured skeptics that every step of his work will happen slowly and deliberately, with full-term embryos not on the horizon for some time. Plus, his experiment is designed to effect a single organ, of which he said, “We are trying to do targeted organ generation, so the cells go only to the pancreas.”

In 2017, Nakauchi used similar techniques to grow a mouse pancreas in the body of a rat. So you know, we’re a ways away from Brundlefly here. And that’s undoubtedly a good thing. As science-policy researcher Tetsuya Ishii of Hokkaido University said, “It is good to proceed stepwise with caution, which will make it possible to have a dialogue with the public, which is feeling anxious and has concerns.”

Yes, when it comes to human-animal hybrids, let’s proceed with a fuck-ton of caution, for everyone’s sake.

jeff goldblum

(Universal Pictures)

(via Nature.com, image: MGM)

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Anaconda Gets Pregnant and Gives Birth With Zero Help From Males

anna the anaconda gave birth without a man bc the matriarchy.

Ssssisters are doing it for themselves! Anna the Anaconda, an 8-year old resident snake at the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA has managed to reproduce and spawn two baby anacondas all by herself. But don’t go calling Snake Jesus just yet: this is hardly a virgin birth. While Anna resided with only female snakes in her enclosure (to prevent mating) she managed to reproduce via a process called parthenogenesis, which allows a female organism to reproduce without fertilization from a male.

The process, which is frequently seen in plants and insects, has been observed in birds, sharks, lizards, and other snake species. Aquarium spokesman Tony LaCasse said of the phenomenon, “Genetically, it’s a vulnerable process … It’s among that tagline, life will find a way. It’s a completely unique and amazing reproductive strategy, but it has a low viability compared to sexual reproduction.” Nearly a dozen baby snakes were born stillborn among the two that survived.

Anacondas are the world’s largest species of snake, and Anna herself weighs in at 30 pounds with a length of 10 feet. Scientists at the aquarium did due diligence regarding the parentage, studying Anna’s history of contact with any males and running a DNA test to reveal that the babies were genetic clones of their mother.

Currently, the babies are being cared for by the aquarium, where they are being held every day to get them used to human contact (and also because who doesn’t love snake snuggles?). Obviously, we stan a single lady anaconda who doesn’t need a man and refuses to rely on the snaketriarchy. If we’re talking about men, the anaconda don’t want none. And we’re not alone: folks on social media are celebrating a single snake mom living her best life.

It’s been quite a week for anacondas on social media (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type), as the giant snake started trending on social media last week. This was thanks to two bizarre new videos posted on Twitter from actor Jon Voight. Voight discussed his support for President Trump, calling him “greatest president since Abraham Lincoln”.

Folks were quick to mock Voight, and quickly started sharing GIFs and memes of the actor getting constricted by a giant snake in the trashy classic movie Anaconda. So for those of you keeping score, it’s Anacondas: 2, Jon Voight: 0. What a time to be alive.

(via Washington Post, image: Instagram/New England Aquarium)

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Gets Roasted During His Own TED Talk AMA

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey roasted at his own ama.

Twitter, like a shitty boyfriend or an overpowering Oreo addiction, is bad for all of us, but we just can’t seem to quit it. After all, where else would be get our latest news, memes, and dangerously irresponsible ramblings from the president? Despite its myriad problems (and by problems, I mean Nazis), Twitter continues to reign supreme among social media platforms, for better or for worse.

In an effort to pave a new future for the company, CEO Jack Dorsey participated in an AMA hosted by TED Talks. Twitter users were encouraged to ask questions with the hashtag #AskJackAtTED, and reader, it went about as well we thought it would.

In a brilliant move, the questions that poured in were projected onto two giant screens behind Dorsey, providing a stunning backdrop of people asking WTF Dorsey was going to do about the proliferation of Nazis and hate speech on the site. As Dorsey laid out his plans for the company, which included “reducing outrage” and “incentivizing healthy conversation,” tweets kept pouring in about the company’s seemingly indifferent attitude towards harassment and abuse.

The tweet screens were turned off halfway through the interview (no surprise), although TED Talk organizers said that was their plan all along. In addition to questioning Twitter policy, plenty of users just went after Dorsey’s appearance, which hopefully doesn’t come as a surprise to the guy who runs Twitter. The CEO appeared disheveled with a long beard and knit hat, prompting plenty of jokes.

Dorsey laid out his plans to revamp Twitter by moving the focus from individual members to topics of conversation. He admitted that the current operating procedure of the site does not promote a healthy exchange of ideas, saying, “In the past, it’s incented a lot of outrage, It’s incented a lot of mob behavior. It’s incented a lot of group harassment.”

His plan includes a more proactive approach to removing abusive tweets, as opposed to relying on user reports. Dorsey said that their system now eliminates up to 38% of those tweets.

Dorsey also wants to make the site “more meaningful,” saying, “You don’t necessarily walk away feeling you have learned something … It takes a lot of time and a lot of work to build up to that.” Great plan, dude, but before we get to educating the masses, how about you address the rampant abuse and hate speech targeted at women, people of color, and LGBTQ folks? Like, get that up to 100% first and then tackle that other stuff.

TED’s Chris Anderson and Whitney Pennington Rodgers pulled no punches during the interview, pressing Dorsey on his policies. Anderson said it best when he compared Twitter to the Titanic, saying,

“We are on this great voyage with you on a ship, and there are people on board in steerage who are expressing discomfort and you, unlike other captains are saying, ‘well, tell me, I want to hear,’ and they’re saying ‘we’re worried about the iceberg ahead,’ and you say, ‘our ship hasn’t been built for steering as well as it might,’ and you’re showing this extraordinary calm, but we’re all saying, ‘Jack, turn the fucking wheel!’”

(via Axios, image: David Becker/Getty Images)

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Female Microsoft Employees Are Protesting the Tech Giant’s Treatment of Women

microsoft

It’s no surprise that women who work in tech are treated differently because of their gender. Silicon Valley has always had a pervasive problem with sexual harassment and discrimination, but the #MeToo Movement has shone spotlight on just how awful it can be for a woman in the industry.

Now, Microsoft employees are demanding accountability from HR and the company’s CEO Satya Nadella. Nadella held a company meeting last week in response to an email chain that was circulating among female employees. The email chain features female employees of Microsoft sharing stories of harassment and discrimination, as well as the company’s inability and unwillingness to address the complaints in any real or concrete way.

The emails began on March 20th, after a female employee emailed several others about how to move up in the company. She was frustrated after six years at Microsoft with zero opportunities for advancement. Quickly, women began to respond with their own experiences of harassment, mistreatment, and watching male employees getting promoted while their careers stayed stagnant.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has come under fire for mistreating their female employees. The company faced a class action lawsuit in early 2018, which claimed that the tech giant “handled 238 internal complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination in a “lacklustre” way. the lawsuit described the company as having an “exclusionary ‘boys’ club’ atmosphere” that is “rife with sexual harassment”.

One woman wrote, “As a Microsoft Partner, was asked to sit on someone’s lap twice in one meeting in front of HR and other executives … I can assure you that nothing was done. I alone objected and cited Microsoft policy. The person said that he did not have to listen and repeated the request a second time. No one said anything.”

Another woman said that an employee from a partner company threatened to kill her if she didn’t perform sexual acts. “I raised immediate attention to HR and management,” she wrote. “My male manager told me that ‘it sounded like he was just flirting’ and I should ‘get over it’. HR basically said that since there was no evidence, and this man worked for a partner company and not Microsoft, there was nothing they could do.”

the emails quickly garnered the company’s attention. Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s head of human resources, responded to the email chain, writing “I discussed this thread with the [senior leadership team] today. We are appalled and sad to hear about these experiences. It is very painful to hear these stories and to know that anyone is facing such behavior at Microsoft. We must do better,” and promising the employees that the HR department would investigate the allegations.

The stories are disturbing, as are the company’s responses, or lack thereof. One of the women wrote, “This thread has pulled the scab off a festering wound. The collective anger and frustration is palpable. A wide audience is now listening. And you know what? I’m good with that.”

(via Quartz, image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Tumblr’s Traffic Continues to Fall After Misguided NSFW Content Ban

Tumblr traffic decline since adult NFSW banLet’s check in with Tumblr and see how the social blogging site is faring since it unceremoniously banned adult content in December.

If you’ve read my discussions of Tumblr’s NSFW content ban in the past, you know that I think it was a monumentally terrible idea that altered the service forever. More than eradicating a big reason why people used and visited the site in the first place, it created a massive rift in Tumblr culture, with many users outraged in solidarity with the sex workers, artists, photographers, porn curators, and disparate communities whose platform vanished on December 17th, 2018. As The NextWeb aptly notes:

For adult content enthusiasts, Tumblr was a place to let their freak flag fly. Like-minded individuals, including those from the LGBTQ community, found a place they belonged, bonding over a shared love of kink in carefully-curated communities. And now it’s gone.

After years of billing itself as the network for creators, where NSFW content was embraced, Tumblr’s abrupt reversal of policy and its poor handling of the roll-out (specifying that “female-presenting nipples” were no longer allowed to be on view is one for the history books) shook its userbase en masse.

I wrote about my own lessened use of Tumblr for fandom connectivity, the crickets that have taken up residence on my dashboard in lieu of fresh posts. Anecdotally, amongst my friends and The Mary Sue commentariat, experiences have tracked. There’s a noted slump in activity across fan-based communities, with some people decamping to NSFW-friendly platforms like Twitter and Reddit or back to older spaces like Dreamwidth and DeviantArt. Tumblr isn’t dead, but it has been significantly reduced from its pre-ban form.

Fandoms get a lot of attention and make noise on Tumblr, but they’re still a small fraction of users and visitors overall. And, of course, anecdotes are one thing, and numbers are another. I was curious as to how Tumblr as a whole was holding up. So let’s take a look at some of the cold hard traffic realities. A Hungarian Tumblr alternative keen to host your NSFW content, Plinner, put together a report that showed that Tumblr lost a staggering near-20% of its traffic in the first month after the NSFW ban’s implementation.

Graph of Tumblr traffic loss since ban

via Plinner, metrics from SimilarWeb

Since that precipitous plunge in January, Tumblr’s monthly visits have continued this downward trend. Metrics from the website analysis service SimilarWeb show that the fall in traffic was not a one-off in response to the ban’s implementation but an ongoing result.

Tumblr traffic decline since its NSFW ban

via SimilarWeb

According to SimilarWeb’s most recent report for February, Tumblr’s visits that month clocked in at 369.50 million, down 15.40%. Its “international ranking” in terms of traffic amongst top sites worldwide is down to #78, while in the USA it’s fallen to #51. For context in the USA, here’re a few other rankings: Reddit (#13), Pornhub (#6), Linkedin (#21), Chaturbate (#26), Imgur (#39), Twitch (#42). Tumblr’s overall traffic has fallen by approximately 30% since December’s ban, and it doesn’t show signs of reversal.

A self-imposed loss of 30% and counting traffic-wise isn’t just shooting oneself in the foot, but the knee and maybe the thigh for good measure. For most services it would be viewed as a catastrophe in need of immediate remedy, yet Tumblr did this on purpose. The content ban decision continues to be mind-boggling to me, especially because it wasn’t necessary or called for by anyone except maybe Apple. Many of us suspected that the ban was a reactionary response to Tumblr being temporarily pulled from the App Store after child pornography was discovered. As TheNextWeb explains, this was indeed what happened, but the corrective lengths taken did not square with the issue at hand.

Rather than just ridding the site of its offensive content, however, Tumblr elected to blow the whole thing up and start over, this time as a PG-13 version of its former self. Like most online platforms, Tumblr has had its issues with unsavory content — but no more than YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and any other place where humans congregate. The site wasn’t promoting child pornography, and it certainly didn’t approve. Its terms of service prohibited exploitative images of minors, and the team worked promptly to remove them once discovered.

I can confirm that this was the case, because I used to work on the Tumblr Trust & Safety team tasked with this effort amongst other sensitive content violations. My own experience increases my dismay at the content ban. I can’t help but feel that a scorched-earth measure like Tumblr’s doesn’t help to eliminate the distribution of child pornography—if anything, it drives those who generate and consume it even further underground, reducing the likelihood that they can be reported to the proper authorities and the content removed.

Additionally, I’m left to wonder how well the tech is even working in this respect. The NSFW ban features have been glitchy on Tumblr: spambots and graphically pornographic posts still spring up, while ridiculous things like bare-breasted works of classic art get flagged. Whether the issue of child pornography has been effectively addressed on Tumblr is a huge unanswered question.

Beyond what most of us would term flat-out pornography, it’s important to remember that Tumblr hosted a rich diversity of artists who dabbled in NSFW imagery, photographers with nude subjects, kink groups exploring their identities, and LGBTQ+ folks who felt they finally had a safe space to express themselves, sometimes with the inclusion of nipples without gender determination.

It seems to me that the crucial cultural offshoots of what constitutes “NSFW” were not factored in when the ban was proposed, nor the backlash from Tumblr’s largely politically engaged and outspoken userbase. If these factors weren’t considered, the error is egregious. If such concerns were considered and summarily dismissed, then Tumblr’s receiving exactly what it deserves as it dwindles from consequence.

(images: Tumblr, Plinner, SimilarWeb)

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[Updated] Twitter App Testing Hiding Reply Numbers Behind a Tap

angry emoji sums up our feelings on social media.

[Update: Twitter has clarified that only engagement numbers for replies are hidden in the test, and that they’re still viewable with a tap from the user. It’s also a very early experimental test that may well never make its way to users, while the camera update is on the way this week. The original headline on this article read “In a Highly Unpopular Move, Twitter Plans to Hide Retweet and Like Metrics, Killing Ratios” and has been corrected accordingly. Original article follows.]

Twitter has announced some major changes coming to the social media giant, including a serious crackdown on Nazis and hate speech, as well as new directives for preventing women against harassment. JUST KIDDING! They’re not doing any of that. Instead, Twitter is taking steps towards “better conversation” with a series of updates that no one asked for.

The first change they are implementing is regarding smartphone cameras. Users will now have more options to enhance and personalize their photo and video content, much like other social media channels like Instagram and Snapchat. The app’s new prototype “twttr” allows users to color code replies and rounded, bubble-shaped replies, in an effort to make them easier to read.

But these new updates also remove the engagement numbers for retweets and likes to the public. Keith Coleman, Twitter’s head of consumer products, said, “We’re also actually working on changing the product and changing the policies to improve the health of the conversations.” The move is part of an effort to subdue accounts spreading hoaxes and conspiracy theories, but in actuality what Twitter is doing is killing the phenomenon known as “ratioing.”

Getting “ratioed” describes a large discrepancy in replies vs. retweets on a given tweet. It’s often used to highlight a tweet’s unpopularity, i.e. if you have way more replies than retweets, chances are your opinion is unpopular. Here’s @Briligerent’s explanation:

Many believe that the move is in response to complaints from high profile Twitter accounts, likes celebrities, billionaires, thought leaders, politicians, and our Twitter-loving president. Here’s what many users had to say on the subject:

Speaking of unpopular decisions and Twitter, CEO Jack Dorsey recently appeared as a guest on Ben Greenfield’s podcast. Greenfield is a notorious “fitness expert” who is also a vocal anti-vaxxer.

Dorsey’s endorsement comes at a time when other social media giants like YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook are actively working to shut down anti-vaxxer pages and videos in light of preventable disease outbreaks sweeping the country. Even Amazon has pulled anti-vaxxer documentaries and literature from their collection. Great work, everyone.

(via NBC News, image: Pexels)

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Amazon Isn’t Coming to New York Anymore and Twitter Is on Fire

Jeff Bezons sitting on a stage.
New Yorkers are rejoicing! Our subway commutes will continue to be just slightly crowded, not nearly as jam packed as they would have been if Amazon had made the move to Long Island City, and our rent will remain only slightly outrageous! That’s right, Amazon pulled out of their planned move to Queens, which … honestly, relatable.

So, those of us who live in New York have been quick to make fun of Amazon’s failure. Don’t worry, though. There are some real takes out there when people who don’t live in the Big Apple are complaining about how now Queens residents lose out on those job opportunities, not knowing that it would still have been impossible to navigate that area of town if they actually lived here.

And, unsurprisingly, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s Oh, Hello! got its moment in the sun.

But, primarily, many celebrated the fact that those who ‘rushed’ to buy apartments to raise the rent are now stuck with them.

We’ve had a lot of changes in recent history. The L train was shutting down and now isn’t; Amazon was coming and now isn’t. So what else isn’t going to be true?

At the end of the day, this is a good thing. Amazon may have brought jobs (we’ve heard how their employees are treated), but it would have raised rent, made transit impossible, and made living in New York City harder for those already living in Queens and the surrounding areas—all while enjoying tax breaks it doesn’t need. So joke’s on you, Jeff Bezos. We’re glad it isn’t happening.

(image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Scarlett Johansson Says It’s “Useless” Fighting Back Against Deepfake Porn Videos Using Her Face

Scarlett Johansson, garbage, casting, trans, transgender, responses, memes

The internet is a terrifying place. We are still slowly learning rules and decorum for the instant access and technology we have—some more slowly than others. With new technology, people now have the ability to create great content or really, really awful stuff. One such tech is the AI algorithm that scans a celebrity’s face and uploads it to existing video content, used to make videos called “Deepfakes.”

Some of these videos are memes, such as putting Nicholas Cage into any movie. Others are far nastier.

One such genre of videos is uploading celebrity faces onto porn films, including stars such as Scarlett Johansson. These videos can garner millions of views, but Johansson isn’t about to take to the courts to try to get them shut down. The actress talked to the Washington Post about her experiences, saying,

“Clearly this doesn’t affect me as much because people assume it’s not actually me in a porno, however demeaning it is. I think it’s a useless pursuit, legally, mostly because the internet is a vast wormhole of darkness that eats itself. There are far more disturbing things on the dark web than this, sadly. I think it’s up to an individual to fight for their own right to their image, claim damages, etc.

“Every country has their own legalese regarding the right to your own image, so while you may be able to take down sites in the U.S. that are using your face, the same rules might not apply in Germany. Even if you copyright pictures with your image that belong to you, the same copyright laws don’t apply overseas. I have sadly been down this road many, many times. The fact is that trying to protect yourself from the internet and its depravity is basically a lost cause, for the most part.”

Johansson became a symbol for the dangers of hacking when she, alongside many other celebrities, had their accounts hacked and their nude pictures leaked; the hacker was later sentenced to ten years in prison. She has been dealing with this for years now, and it must be incredibly painful to have her image twisted and used in this way after already dealing with such a vile breach of privacy.

It should go without saying to not digitally insert a woman’s face into a pornographic video without her consent, but here we are. The worst part is is that Johansson is right: There is no easy way to fight this legally. Johansson cannot get a cease and desist letter and have it honored, because she’s trapped in a legal limbo.

She concluded her comments by saying,

“The Internet is just another place where sex sells and vulnerable people are preyed upon. And any low level hacker can steal a password and steal and identity. It’s just a matter of time before any one person is targeted.

“…

“Obviously, if a person has more resources, they may employ various forces to build a bigger wall around their digital identity. But nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image or anyone else’s onto a different body and making it look as eerily realistic as desired. There are basically no rules on the internet because it is an abyss that remains virtually lawless, withstanding US policies which, again, only apply here.”

There is no easy answer to this problem. Johansson puts it best when she says that the internet is an abyss and virtually lawless, because that is most definitely the truth. There are no real rules and protections, and though there are some cases that have been successfully won against hackers, there is no way to really legislate deepfake videos. Things might get better eventually, but for now, things are just going to stay being pretty terrible.

(via The Washington Post, image: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

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Facebook Gives Netflix and Spotify Access to Private Messages in Latest Privacy Breach

Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the second day of testimony before Congress by Zuckerberg, 33, after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign.

In March, Facebook took out full page apology ads in several prominent newspapers. The ad was in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where nearly 100 million users had their data mined by the political consulting firm for use in the 2016 presidential election. The header of the ad read, “We have a responsibility to protect your information. If we can’t, we don’t deserve it.”

Now, a new exposé from the New York Times reveals the the social network has been not only sharing user data, but has allowed more than 150 tech companies unprecedented access to user’s private messages and content. Facebook allowed Netflix, Spotify and the Royal Bank of Canada to read, write and delete users’ private messages, as well as allowing Microsoft, Sony and Amazon access to the email addresses of users and their friends.

These partnerships often focus on company integrations, where Facebook and another tech company collaborate to create new apps, products or capabilities. For example, Spotify was given access to the messaging app so they could integrate a feature where users can send spotify songs and playlists via messager.

The investigation shows a troubling pattern of Facebook allowing the tech companies they’ve partnered with to sidestep privacy rules in the name of profit. This violates a 2011 consent agreement with the Federal Trade Commission that blocks Facebook from sharing user data without permission. Facebook released a statement saying, “None of these partnerships or features gave companies access to information without people’s permission, nor did they violate our 2012 settlement with the FTC.”

Using loopholes within privacy agreements, Facebook has extended their own privacy rules to these tech companies, classifying them as partners of Facebook and granting them access to the data. For their part, companies like Netflix, Apple and Spotify claim that they were ignorant to the full scale of their access and unaware of the breach in privacy.

While Facebook continues to profit off of data mining, the government seems wholly unprepared to tackle the complex issue. This was painfully obvious when Google chief executive Sundar Pichai appeared before the House Judiciary Committee just last week. The committee was made up of older reps who lacked the most basic understanding of technology, including Rep. Steve King (R-IA) who questioned Pichai about his granddaughter’s iPhone, only to be told by the CEO that Google doesn’t make the product.

Members of the Senate have called on congress to pass the data privacy bill, a piece of bi-partisan legislation from U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA).

2019 brings a newer, younger and more tech-savvy class of congresspeople into the government. Hopefully they will be able to steer policy towards providing concrete data protection and more transparency from Facebook and other tech companies. In the meantime, brace yourselves for more full page apologies. And maybe delete your Facebook account.

(via New York Times, image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Three Women Have Now Accused Neil deGrasse Tyson of Sexual Misconduct

neil degrasse tyson

Yesterday, allegations of sexual misconduct against scientist and celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson came to light. Two women have accused him of inappropriate behavior towards them, including touching them without their consent and trying to seduce them. This comes on the heels of an accusation that Tyson raped a woman while they were both grad students, which had widely flown under the radar.

One of the accusers details how Tyson grabbed her arm to study her body-wide tattoo of the solar system, and then tried to “find Pluto” by following the tattoo into her dress. The other speaks about how, when she was working for Tyson, he invited her to his apartment and allegedly made advances on her. When she confronted him about it the following day, she says that he told her she would never advance through the ranks because she was too “distracting.” The second accuser did report the event to a sexual harassment hotline.

His first accuser, a woman named Tchiya Amet, says that he drugged and raped her while they were both studying astronomy at the University of Texas in Austin. She publicly accused him during a speaking event in 2010, and was met with dismissal from his fans and supporters, which is detailed in an interview with her that you can read here.

Despite speaking out on this on multiple occasions and even filing a police report, Amet’s story has gone mostly unknown. One of the articles on her, cited in the linked interview piece above, uses her spirituality to dismiss her claims.

The founder of the People of Reason and Progress, David McAfee, published both a story on Amet and the story detailing two other accusations of misconduct. In an article released on their blog, PORP states that

“Robust data clearly show that more often than not, accusers who come forward are telling the truth. As such, we believe that the allegations submitted by both women should be seriously and thoroughly investigated. We also believe that Dr. Tyson should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. We at PORP also pledge to keep our followers and the public well-informed on this matter as more information comes to light.

“The hyper-endemic incidence of sexual assault and misconduct in American society must be addressed with data and evidence, and those who have committed such acts must be held accountable. We believe that survivors will not receive the justice they deserve as long as we choose to turn a blind eye to accusations against those whom we support.”

We’ll continue to follow this story as more information is released.

(via Patheos, image: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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