Category Archives: U.S. News
The five best Super Bowl commercials, recapped

The Philadelphia Eagles aren’t the only ones flying after their Super Bowl victory. Five Super Bowl commercials soared above the flock of advertising, according to the USA Today Ad Meter, which asks fans to rate the national ads on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.

Here are the big winners of Super Bowl 52:

Amazon

Amazon’s 90-second spot for Alexa, featuring disastrous attempts by stars like Cardi B, Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson, and Anthony Hopkins to step in for the virtual assistant, was the highest-rated ad among fans who voted on USA Today. As more competitors encroach on the smart-speaker market, the tech giant humorously made a case for why Alexa is irreplaceable.

The ad, released online four days before the game, also earned the most online views across Facebook, YouTube, and iSpot.tv leading up to and throughout the game, the ad-tracking firm iSpot.TV found.

NFL

After a season plagued by controversies about head injuries and also around players kneeling in protest during the national anthem, the NFL opted for a little humor in its commercials.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., and the Giants offensive line performed a heartfelt rendition on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. A series of seemingly nonsensical vignettes that showed the quarterback discussing games like Patty Cake and Thumb War with his offensive line preceded the main spot, which aired in the fourth quarter. It turned out Manning had been working on his choreography all along.

Budweiser

A sentimental Budweiser commercial that portrayed how the brand’s employees delivered clean water to victims of last year’s natural disasters was the third top-rated ad. The beer brand won with a cause that was close to its company and showed action on top of nice words, and a moving rendition of “Stand By Me” by artist Skylar Gray.

Doritos vs. Mountain Dew

Doritos and Mountain Dew both won when parent company PepsiCo pitted the sister brands against one another in an epic lip-sync battle. Game of Thrones actor Peter Dinklage represented Doritos with rapper Busta Rhymes in his corner, and Morgan Freeman paired with Missy Elliot on team Mountain Dew. The performances aired in the second quarter and made for the fourth highest-rated commercial.

It was also one of the top performing ads online during the game, capturing the largest share of activity including earned video views and social media impressions of all the Super Bowl commercials, according to iSpot.tv.

Toyota

Toyota opened the game with a touching commercial that told the real-life story of Alpine skier Lauren Woolstencroft and the odds she overcame to become a Paralympic gold medalist. Set to the song “Stronger Than I’ve Ever Been” by Kaleena Zanders, the commercial depicts Woolstencroft as a baby, a young girl, and then a grown woman refusing to stay down each time she took a fall. It was tied to the carmaker’s sponsorship of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which kick off Feb. 9 and March 8 respectively in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Quartz’s pick: Tide

Tide wasn’t one of the highest-rated ads by USA Today’s audience. But the detergent brand owned the Super Bowl with a series of spots that played on well-known campaigns from fellow P&G brands like Old Spice and Mr. Clean, as well as others like auto and beer brands. The commercials, featuring Stranger Things actor David Harbour, made smart use of the brand’s 90-second media buy to connect with audiences throughout the game. There were four spots—one for each quarter. And they kept viewers wondering whether every commercial that aired was just “another Tide ad,” as the campaign said. That makes it Quartz’s pick for honorable mention.


Read next: Here are all the Super Bowl commercials

Source: https://qz.com/1198329/super-bowl-2018-best-commercials-recap/

Surfing and yoga on the beach is helping heal victims of Somalia’s war
Surf therapy

Somalia has the longest coastline in mainland Africa, stretching more than 3,000 kilometers (1880 miles) across the Horn.

But for decades, those pristine beaches remained untouched and devoid of people and activities. And as the nation gained a semblance of peace in 2011, Somalis flocked there to swim and eat at newly-opened seaside restaurants, only for them to become a target for terrorists. The attacks on beachgoers was a testament to the continued erosion of safe spaces amid an increasing wave of brazen and hellacious violence.

Ilwad Elman, a 28-year-old social activist, wants to change that by leveraging the ocean’s proximity as a way to heal old wounds and alleviate the problems of war. Through her organization the Elman Peace and Human Rights Center, the 2017 Quartz Africa Innovator works to reintegrate former child soldiers and assisting victims of sexual violence. The prolonged conflict, limited care facilities and the social stigma associated with mental problems have meant the prevalence of mental illness in Somalia—one in three according to the World Health Organization in 2011—is higher than in other low-income and war-torn nations.

To deal with this, Elman has introduced yoga and surfing therapy as a way to explore the therapeutic benefits that spending time in the ocean, learning to surf, and connecting with one’s body through yoga can have on victims of war. Elman says they hope to explore these alternative techniques to therapy and counseling to empower young people to open up, share their stories, and challenge the emotional and psychological stress they face on a daily basis.

Training how to surf by the beach in Mogadishu

“We have been ingrained, trained, and raised to just move on from any traumatic issue,” Elman said, from Mogadishu. “We don’t grieve, we don’t mourn, and it’s considered a sign of weakness or a Western belief that you talk about your problems and you actually explore them deeper to figure out how to cope.”

Getting ready to learn surfing

Getting ready to learn surfing

For the yoga project, the organization sent two of its caseworkers to train with the Nairobi-based Africa Yoga Project, which uses the practice of yoga to boost employability and increase service engagement. After coming back, the social workers integrated yoga into their existing support systems.

Elman Center caseworkers finished 400 hours of 400 hours of yoga teachers training with the Nairobi-based Africa Yoga Project.

Elman Center caseworkers finished 400 hours of 400 hours of yoga teachers training with the Nairobi-based Africa Yoga Project.

For the surfing, the Cape Town-based Waves for Change, which uses therapy to engage youth in townships donated 10 boards. Elman then engaged some of the child soldiers rehabilitating at their center to help them cope with physical and psychological trauma. “So many of the people we work with have been in survival mode their whole lives,” Elman said. And surf therapy has been “a great tool to start a conversation.”

Yoga for mind and body wellness therapy in Mogadishu’s beach

Elman said threats still persisted during training sessions at beaches. Traditional social structures also meant physical openness by girls in public was frowned upon at times. But Elman says they are determined to go through with the project, and also collect empirical evidence on the true impacts and benefits of these activities. “It will be really important in building an architecture for mental health in Somalia,” she said.

Elman hopes to conduct research on the impact of yoga on victims of war in Somalia.

Elman hopes to conduct research on the impact of yoga on victims of war in Somalia.

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Source: https://qz.com/1197734/photos-surf-therapy-and-yoga-in-somalias-beaches-is-helping-heal-child-soldiers-and-victims-of-sexual-violence/

How the CDC used “vulnerable,” “transgender” and other newly banned words in past documents
U.S. President Donald Trump cuts a red tape while speaking about deregulation at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 14, 2017.

The Centers for Disease Control is the main public health institute in the United States. It is committed to helping Americans in a way that is science-based—er, oops, I can’t say that now.

That’s because the Trump administration has barred the CDC from using a list of words it apparently doesn’t want “in any official documents being prepared for next year’s budget,” according to reporting from the Washington Post. Here is the list of words that are now banned:

  • vulnerable
  • entitlement
  • diversity
  • transgender
  • fetus
  • evidence-based
  • science-based

It’s clear what kind of services the Trump administration is targeting by banning “transgender.” But what are they getting at with “vulnerable,” or “diversity?” Quartz has collected sentences from past CDC budgets that, under the new rules, can no longer be written, to put these terms in context. Looking at that context reveals what Trump doesn’t want the CDC to talk about.

CDC budget overview, fiscal year 2017 (pdf):

The United States remains deeply committed to safeguarding the American public from terrorists, just as we are committed to providing refuge to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

CDC justification of budget estimates, fiscal year 2017 (pdf):

The Immunization Program purchases routinely recommended vaccines to protect at-risk and vulnerable populations not eligible for immunizations through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program and to meet urgent public health needs such as controlling VPD outbreaks.

The youngest, most vulnerable population in the United States are the approximately 24,000 infants born each year to HBV-infected mothers, because these infants are at highest risk for developing chronic HBV infection.

In FY 2014, CDC launched a new funding opportunity announcement and awarded a new cohort of six grantees (three original and three new sites). New sites increase the racial and ethnic diversity in the system.

CDC has also recently funded three new grants focused on persons of color disproportionately affected by HIV. The first grant will provide up to $125 million over a three-year period to 12 state and local health departments in the United States to implement pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and Data to Care demonstration projects prioritizing gay and bisexual men and transgender persons at high risk for HIV infection, particularly persons of color.

Having evidence-base guidelines and recommendations is important to CDC and the agency’s guideline production is a key component of ensuring the safety of healthcare in the United States.

CDC supports science-based communication campaigns and other efforts to convey the benefits of vaccines to the public to aid individuals in making informed vaccine decisions to protect themselves and their loved ones.

CDC budget overview, fiscal year 2016 (pdf):

The FY 2016 budget request includes an increase of $3.5 million for Arthritis and other Chronic Diseases to address the burden of arthritis by increasing access to and availability of evidence-based interventions, conducting surveillance to measure burden, strengthening the science base of effective strategies, and promoting health equity.

CDC justification of budget estimates, fiscal year 2016 (pdf):

In FY 2016, CDC will separately fund a new cooperative agreement with CBOs that serve young men of color who have sex with men, young transgender persons of color, and their partners.

The Immunization Program purchases routinely recommended vaccines to protect at-risk and vulnerable populations not eligible for immunizations through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program and to meet urgent public health needs such as controlling VPD outbreaks.

CDC justification of budget estimates, fiscal year 2015 (pdf):

The Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, includes the Office of Women’s Health and the Diversity Management Program, provides…guidance and oversight to the agency-wide implementation of the CDC Diversity Plan.

School-based prevention program grantees will…increase implementation of evidence-based sexual health education programs in schools.

In FY2015, CDC will maintain funding for the National Program to Eliminate Diabetes Related Disparities in Vulnerable Populations, a five-year cooperative agreement (FY2014-FY2019).

Looking through CDC’s main budget documents for the past few years, we could not find any instances of the words “fetus” or “entitlements.” And we won’t in future documents either, it seems.

Source: https://qz.com/1158898/cdc-banned-words-how-the-cdc-used-vulnerable-transgender-and-other-newly-banned-words-in-past-documents/

The Pentagon has confirmed its $22M program to investigate UFOs

When military intelligence officer Luis Elizondo stepped down from his post heading the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP)—the program created to investigate unidentified flying objects—in October, he cited lack of government support. “We tried to work within the system. We were trying to take the voodoo out of voodoo science,” Elizondo told Politico in a recent interview.

Until his departure the program, though unclassified, had nevertheless been a Pentagon secret in that its existence had never been publicly acknowledged. That is, until Saturday (Dec. 16), when Politico and the New York Times published reports tracing AATIP’s history from 2007 to today. The Pentagon confirmed AATIP’s existence, though it’s yet to comment on whether the program is still running despite lacking government funding.

Former senate majority leader and retired Nevada lawmaker Harry Reid was AATIP’s catalyst, earmarking over $20 million of the defense department’s budget to fund it. Billionaire Robert Bigelow’s aerospace company secured many of the program’s early contracts. Bigelow, who now works at NASA, was the one who convinced Reid to move forward with establishing a UFO investigation program, according to the New York Times. He approached Reid earlier in 2007 about a Defense Intelligence Agency official’s interest in visiting his Skinwalker Ranch property in Utah—considered a point of interest for believers in paranormal and UFO activities.

Shortly after his meeting with Bigelow, Reid met with officials, who were also interested in establishing a UFO investigation program. AATIP had funds earmarked until 2012, though sources told the New York Times it has continued to operate and investigate potential sightings. Pentagon spokesperson Thomas Crosson told the Times the reason AATIP’s funding ran out was because “there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding.”

In an interview with the New York Times, Reid said he doesn’t regret a thing about helping to start AATIP. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going. I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before,” Reid said.

Elizondo was clearly a fan of AATIP too, and hasn’t given up on UFO research. Following his resignation, he joined the for-profit To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences. Created by Blink-182 guitarist and singer Tom DeLong, the company is dedicated to studying unexplained aerial phenomena. Elizondo has begun speaking publicly about its mission in a bid for funding.

Source: https://qz.com/1158998/the-pentagon-confirms-its-22-million-ufo-investigation-program/

Person of the Year: Time honours abuse ‘silence breakers’

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Women who broke silence on sexual harassment and abuse have been named as Time's Person of the Year.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42254219

Colin Kaepernick accepts Muhammad Ali sports award from Beyonce

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The American football player says he'll "continue to work for the people, with or without the NFL's platform".

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/articles/42251661

MeToo hijacked black women’s work on race and gender equality

In 1975, a payroll clerk at the US Environmental Protection Agency named Paulette Barnes sued the agency when she was fired for refusing a boss’s advances. A year later, a former US Justice Department employee named Diane Williams filed a claim against her ex-employers for the same reason. They won their cases, paving the way for the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1986 decision that sexual harassment was a violation of the Civil Rights Act—the result of a case brought by a third black woman, Mechelle Vinson, against the bank where her former supervisor harassed and raped her repeatedly over several years.

Five years later, law professor Anita Hill’s testimony about Clarence Thomas’s lewd behavior as her boss brought the term “sexual harassment” into public discourse and gave millions of women the ability to name the abuse they had endured.

And in the wake of the initial accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the hashtag #MeToo—the name of a movement launched 10 years earlier by writer and activist Tarana Burke, also a black woman—helped to harness collective outrage into a force that is reshaping workplaces around the country.

Those notable efforts are on top of the work of civil rights activists from the members of Working Women United, an advocacy group that spoke out against harassment in the 1970s, to the activists of Black Lives Matter, who highlighted the structural oppression and aggressions large and small underpinning the discussion on harassment today.

This moment is the result of the collective labor of women of color who turned private agonies into public battles on behalf of justice. As overdue and welcome as this reckoning feels, there’s also the unsettling reality that a movement built largely on the labor of women of color has been co-opted by a discussion that prioritizes the experiences of victims who are white, wealthy, and privileged over those who are not.

Racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined. Navigating a biased system exacts a toll, from lost career opportunities to the energy expended on internal calculations for dealing with inappropriate behavior and self-doubt. Many writers, activists, and scholars have worked tirelessly to highlight the cumulative impact of these experiences in the context of race and gender alike.

But the justified outrage around sexual harassment has eclipsed the discussion on race while borrowing its language. It’s as if America can only care about one injustice at a time, and—once again—white people come first.

“I don’t want to stand overly simplistic, but this is how this country works,” said Rebecca Carroll, a WYNC public radio editor and former journalist on the Charlie Rose show, in a recent interview. “When it involves white people is when it matters.”

The recent scrutiny of sexual misconduct in media, entertainment, tech, and other highly visible industries is justified. Women of color are among the Oscar-winning actors, lawmakers, and tech founders who have come forward with their experiences of harassment and abuse. In fact, women of color are more likely to be targets of sexual harassment than white women, according to a 2016 report from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the last decade, according to an analysis of EEOC data by the Center for American Progress, the industries with the greatest number of sexual harassment claims include hotel and food services, retail, and and health services—all areas where women of color are overrepresented. In 2016, organizers representing hospitality workers in Chicago started an anti-harassment campaign called “Hands Off Pants On” after a survey found that 58% of hotel workers and 77% of casino workers had been sexually harassed by a guest.

“If wealthy, highly visible women in news and entertainment are sexually harassed, assaulted and raped—what do we think is happening to women in retail, food service and domestic work?” wrote Charlene Carruthers, an activist and founder of Black Youth Project 100, on Twitter.

It’s not fair, nor is it even possible, to separate gender from race and class and say, “We’ll get to those later—but first let’s settle this.” Women of color fought the battles that brought society to this point, where even the faint hope of change seems possible. To use that work without ensuring that this broken system is replaced with one inclusive of race, in addition to gender, is not partial victory. It’s complete failure. The US has a long and sordid history of taking the labor of people of color for granted. In this great shakeup, it’s time to put an end to that, too.

Source: https://work.qz.com/1147950/metoo-hijacked-black-womens-work-on-race-and-gender-equality/

California fire: Ventura blaze reaches Pacific Ocean

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Firefighters tackling the blaze warn of the dangers of high winds as thousands evacuate their homes.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42255585

Donald Trump says he shunned Time over Person of the Year

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Time Magazine disputes US President Donald Trump's account of how he rejected a photo shoot.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42121402

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