//Should be placed in the header of every page. This won't fire any events

A Feminist Lawyer on the Case Against Wikileaks' Julian Assange

Feminist attorney Jill Filipovic takes a closer look at the sex crime allegations against Julian Assange of wikileaks. I think the post strikes exactly the right balance between being skeptical about the merits and motives of the case against Assange and acknowledging that he's accused of some relatively serious sexual misconduct. In other words, the case against Assange may be baseless, but that doesn't mean the very allegations against him are trivial or nonsensical.


It's obvious that the legal response to these charges has been blown way out of proportion for political reasons. Assange is the target of an international manhunt. Jill notes that one of the crimes he's accused of carries the equivalent of a $700 fine. Yet, Assange has somehow rocketed to a spot on Interpol's most wanted list, no doubt displacing mass-raping war criminals, sex traffickers, and other global predators.

So, what exactly is Assange accused of doing? Sweden prohibits prosecutors from releasing any details about sexual assault allegations, so it's impossible to know for sure. Jill's best guess, based on admittedly murky media reports, is that Assange is accused of violating two (otherwise consenting) sex partners by flouting their wishes with regard to condoms.

Again, these are guesses, but plausible guesses in my opinion: One accuser says she agreed to sex on the condition that Assange wear a condom, only to discover that he'd penetrated her without one. The other accuser maintains that Assange refused to stop having sex after a condom broke.

If consent is predicated on condom use and one partner surreptitiously avoids using a condom, morally, that's a form of sexual assault. Jill notes in her piece that it would be difficult to make that legal case in many U.S. states because the relevant laws require force or threat or force in addition to non-consent. However, the second allegation, if proven, would easily constitute rape in many U.S. states. If one person withdraws consent during sex by telling their partner to stop, and their partner doesn't stop, that's rape (non-consent + force).

Assange has been accused of rape in the English-language media, but it sounds like he's actually been charged with some considerably lesser offenses under Swedish law.

Legitimate questions have been raised about possible ulterior motives of one of Assange's accusers.

On the kookier end of the spectrum... This widely-cited Counterpunch article can't seem to decide if Assange is the victim of radical feminism, U.S. intelligence, female sexual jealously, or what, but the authors are sure he's some kinda of victim! Interestingly, the authors reserve their greatest outrage, or at least their underline command, for an allegedly draconian Swedish legal system that allows a man to be charged with rape on the say-so of a mere woman:

And the Swedes? Perhaps now they will recognize that they went too far. “When the reporter from the Washington Post realized that I was not joking, (said a Swedish legal figure this week), that it does not need more than one woman's word for the police to arrest a man and charge him with rape, he said: “But my God, are you completely crazy? It's worse than Iraq of Saddam Hussein ... [LB: Emphasis original.]

Sweden is not some outlier Nordic feminist legal paradise in this regard. It is difficult to get authorities to act on uncorroborated allegations of rape here in the U.S., but in principle they have the option. As well they should. Anything less would be an across-the-board free pass for rapists who don't leave marks.

It is curious that charges against Assange were brought, dropped almost immediately, and later reinstated. The fact that authorities were so quick to charge Assange based on uncorroborated testimony should raise questions about whether prosecutors are treating him differently from your run-of-the-mill alleged sex criminal. However, it's pure rape culture apology to argue that so-called "he said/she said" cases should be automatically dismissed in favor of the alleged rapist.

We can agree that the legal response to what Assange allegedly did reeks of politically-motivated prosecution without passing judgment on the merits of the allegations against him.

[Photo credit: bbwbryant, Creative Commons.]

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

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Sponsored by Northwell Health
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A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."

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Maps show how CNN lost America to Fox News

Is this proof of a dramatic shift?

Strange Maps
  • Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
  • Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
  • A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses

Dramatic and misleading

Image: Reddit / SICResearch

The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.

Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.

The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.

Let's zoom in:

  • It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
  • By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
  • Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
  • In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
  • Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
  • By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.

"Frightening map"

Image source: Reddit / SICResearch

This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?

  • "The end is near."
  • "The idiocracy grows."
  • "(It's) like a spreading disease."
  • "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
For others, the maps are less about the rise of Fox News, and more about CNN's self-inflicted downward spiral:
  • "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
  • "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
  • "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
  • "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."

Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:

  • "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
  • "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
  • "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
  • "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."

"Old people learning to Google"

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)

But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:

  • "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
  • "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
  • "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
  • "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."

A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.

The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.

One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.

Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.

It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.

CNN, Fox and MSNBC

Image: Google Trends

CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison

For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):

  • Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
  • MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
  • CNN: 706,000 (-9%)

And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.

The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
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Mother bonobos, too, pressure their sons to have grandchildren

If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.

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Surprising Science
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//This will actually fire event. Should be called after consent was verifed