On Biases

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Over the past few years in the USA, hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear cries and screams of “fake news” in a variety of ways. Although that phrase is primary associated to a shameful bloviator, it’s merely a substitute for another term that has been around not only my entire life of 66+ years, but long before. After all, it’s entomological roots are in the 16th century – and that word is bias.

During today’s tribalism, hyper-partisanship, and strong outward expressions of opinions, the biased person watching a biased news broadcast, reading a biased article/book, or listening to a biased radio pundit does not negate bias – but rather enhances it.

Often grounded in assumptions based on one’s culture, parents, peers, education, religion, geography, and personal experiences, biases are that filter leading one to predetermined outcomes. Biases are the neme, slant, lean, and tendency leading one to change what one observes into what they want. That is, the biased person makes the information fit for themselves. Biases unquestionably lead to misinformation and misconceptions; plus stronger biases enhance prejudice and bigotry.

Misconceptions are incorrect ideas grounded in a personal belief system serving as the foundation of incorrect knowledge. Misconceptions get in the way of learning by blocking new information. In order to justify their position, the learner will do whatever is necessary to fight against accepting the new information.

Here’s a simple example. All human blood is red, but the shade varies depending on the amount of oxygen present. Blood rich in oxygen is bright red, but blood low in oxygen is very dark red. In short, there is no blue blood.

A person believing the existence of blue blood will do whatever necessary to keep their belief. They point to the blue veins below the skin – drawings in textbooks showing showing red and blue blood vessels. They explain the skin turns blue after one dies because blood is not moving and getting oxygen. They believe in the immediacy (faster than eyes can detect) of blood changing from blue to red when bleeding from a cut vein. Years ago, an eighth grade classmate of mine even brought paper tissues (with blue food coloring) to class showing she had a nosebleed the night before. She went out of her way to argue her bias with the teacher.

Now expand this simple idea into more complex topics as evolution, vaccines, climate change – let alone complicated issues as health care, foreign policy, and the economy. The more complex the topic, a basic understanding requires more information than obtained from the first click on a single Google search. Now cloud the issue/topic with politically-driven partisan ideas that people blindly accept through a party-driven mantra.

Fighting bias challenges what one believes, so overcoming biases requires a conscious effort and can be personally humbling – even for those thinking they are unbiased. No matter how simple or complex the topic or issue, and no matter the age of the person involved, not only does everyone have misconceptions, only that person (the one holding the misconception) can remove that misconception and replace it with new information. In order to replace the misinformation, that person must either accept the new information from a person they recognize as knowledgeable or they must experience a learning event that alters their view.

Besides preventing learning and becoming knowledgeable and informed, misconceptions can humiliate a person. After all, nobody likes being wrong. Some bring it upon themselves by boasting incorrectly about a topic as if they know. After all, it’s the speed and conviction of the statement that validates the statement. Speak with confidence so others think you know.

On the other hand, misconceptions about a person can humiliate them – but in a different way because they are fightly personal misconceptions about their character, knowledge, and/or abilities. I keep thinking about a manager who told me that what others think of me is more important than who I actually am.

I’ve stated this before and here it comes again – The news media is biased by its very nature.

1) Media people are human, therefore have a filter (whether personal, corporate, or both).

2) Secondly, reports reduce the news event to an abstract. For instance, the media may reduce a one-hour speech into a 90-second report. This condensation is a natural bias; plus, generalizations are naturally less accurate and are not the complete story. Generalizations lead one away from the truth and generalizing generalizations can lead to falsehoods – therefore, misconceptions.

3) Thirdly, the selection of the soundbyte is an natural bias, as are the follow-up questions – but the media must do these actions. That’s part of reporting.

The listener’s bias also plays into the situation. Whether informed or not, the one holding deep convictions about a topic is not only biased against those with an opposing view, they are also vulnerable to getting sucked into generalizations based on misinformation and overgeneralizations that lacks details.

However, if the listener does not agree with the selected edits, abstract report, or the question asked does not mean the reporter or news organization was blatantly biased to favor a point of view – but it could.

On the listener’s side is the fact that if they work traditional morning-afternoon hours, they have limited opportunity to view national evening news by a major network. After that point in time, the 24/7 news channels offer shows featuring and promoting a particular point of view – for instance, Rachel Maddow, Sean Hannity, and others. However, television isn’t the only news source.

Technology has made more information is available to everyone than ever before. Unfortunately, that also means more misinformation is available today more than any other time in history.

Social media complicates and exacerbates personal bias by increasing misinformation, justifying false claims/conclusion, and promoting conspiracy theories. Social media, biased reporting, and talk show echo chambers disengage citizens from the truth while promoting a political agenda.

There is no question that bias plays an important role in the news – and there is plenty of blame to go around. People also carry their share of the blame – actually, in my opinion, people may be the greater problem. People must take responsibility for themselves to challenge and verify the information they receive. However, instead of being proactive citizens, too many people favor reinforcing their bias over being accurately informed.

Valuing factual information is an important aspect of being human – as is the ability to learn – as is the ability to communicate. Too bad there isn’t an anti-bias vaccine. Then again, self-imposed biases would prevent someone from taking that vaccine.

 

PS: This classic scene fits.

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Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 391

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As a whole I think Neil Diamond surprised visitors last weekend. The next concert features the Eagles – start time is this Saturday at 1: 00 AM (Eastern US).

The concert series has turned out to be more popular than I anticipated. My need for a breather is way I didn’t post Sunday evening. On a similar note, scheduling conflicts will bump a weekend concert several times in upcoming weeks.

In my opinion, many professional athletes are wonderful people. Unfortunately, the bad apples make the police blogger and the news. For a story that will make you smile, see this one about PGA golfer Gary Woodland.

Last week our timing was perfect when we successfully returned to the theater to catching the ending to The Upside. For those who don’t remember or didn’t know, with about 30 minutes to go in the movie, an evacuation alarm sounded.

CBS had this outstanding 10-minute report about singer Linda Ronstadt, which includes an interview.

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True to my word, I didn’t watch the SOTU. Based on the clips I saw, I didn’t miss much.

I didn’t watch the Democratic response. Regardless of the president, I wish the opposing party would start a new tradition of not responding. Then again, the odds of that happening is about the same as Congress choosing dignified decorum of sitting and listening instead of popping up and down like they are attending a pep rally.

This week I saw a state-by-state approval/disapproval rating of President Trump. Whereas Democrats can be elated by the numbers, I say they should be cautious because many of who disapprove will vote for his re-election and the Democratic nominee could push others that way.

The Trump idea of unity is when opponents change their mind to agree with him.

As possible Democratic nominee Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) continues to apologize regarding her ethnicity, maybe her campaign is already out of steam – especially with a potentially large field.

To lead you into the weekly dose of satire, The Onion sets the record straight about preventing and treating colds.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Yosemite closed indefinitely after bear spotted in park
Small town billionaire fails to make it in big city
Responsible man sets aside small portion of every paycheck for bank to gamble with
Doctors zap brains of awake brain surgery patients to make them laugh and have fun
Study finds sedentary lifestyle puts millions of Americans at risk of becoming beautiful just the way they are

Interesting Reads

Foreign language classes in decline
The needs for living on Mars
The needs for building a Moon base
Pushing the envelope: Women bicycling in Pakistan
The bank-robbing bicyclist
A tribute to the passing of an artist
(Photos) Enjoy the Daily Dozen from National Geographic

To send you into the weekend, I thank John for inspiring me to use this song. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 390

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Another huge weekend concert last week, so many thanks to everyone. Neil Diamond takes the stage this Saturday at 1: 00 AM (Eastern US).

Last week’s concert made my morning crazy. I awakened to many interactions (that made me smile) – and they kept coming and coming. Given comments and likes, I received over 150 emails before 8 AM. Fortunately for me, I’m process oriented, so I systematically got it to a manageable point.

For those wondering, there is not a pecking order for the concert series. All will be stars, so do not expect to see Rocco Flamefart and the Ultimate Deathtrip Chinese Icebox Jug Band. However, some concerts may feature multiple artists.

This just hit me – 10 more editions of this feature will be the 400th.

This week’s podcasts

  • This American Life (thanks Merril) – One about immigration and the other about walls
  • A Thousand Things to Talk About (Thanks Jim) – daily short segments on a variety of topics
  • Seven Minute Opinions – These are right up my alley

For temporary relief from lousy weather, we went to the theater for The Upside. With about (we think) 30 minutes remaining in the movie, a fire alarm caused everyone to evacuate the theater. Oh well … we will figure a way to see the ending.

One can easily think this next bit of information is from The Onion; but it’s not. KFC is introducing (in test markets) a new sandwich – a chicken sandwich with a Cheetos sauce and a layer of Cheetos. Here’s the article. Interesting, but not for me.

Just finished reading The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (Madeleine Albright, 2006). Now that’s a complex topic – so I’ll post about it later. For now, I can say Thumbs Up to those who would be interested.

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I smiled this week when I heard the reactions to former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz possible independent presidential. The reactions to warned against such a move when help, if not ensure, President Trump’s re-election.

The government has reopened for 3 weeks. This process is an embarrassment and a joke. I don’t think President Trump will repeat the mistake; however, because the man thinks he’s king and he lack of understanding of how government works, his big ego and thick skull will declare a national emergency, which will lead to a legal battle and more embarrassment.

As a result of a proposition vote in California and the immigration crisis it faced in the mid-1990s, I stumbled across this interesting quote.

“There is simply no time to lose. Too many people are still able to illegally cross our borders and too few states, most notably California, carry the burden of having to support, educate, and often incarcerate, the hundreds of thousands who enter this country illegally each year. Ladies and gentlemen, let me say to you what I, honest to God, believe is the truth. If we cannot affect sound, just, and moderate controls, the people of America will rise to stop all immigration. I am as sure as that as I am that I’m standing here now.” (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, sometime mid-1990s)

To lead you into the weekly dose of satire, The Onion explains the truths and myths of taxes in America.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Guest roster assembled for surprise birthday reveals minimal understanding of girlfriend’s social circle
Marine biologists train highly intelligent octopus to profitably manage mid-size aluminum goods supplier
Self-conscious puppet has no idea what to do with hands
A team of archaeologists discovered pile of bones labeled ‘The Last Of The Bones’
Man losing respect for incompetent boss who won’t fire him
The CDC issues a nationwide recall on all Salmonella
Older cafeteria monitor not a teacher or parent or anything

(My combo: Salmonella surprises self-conscious archaeologists with guest octopus) 

Interesting Reads

Rage in America
Priorities of the US public … for now
Reflecting with Smokey Robinson
Looking back at Jackie Robinson
Disappeared warships
Italy’s complete food – a cheese
A Cincinnati story about a Holocaust survivor
Happy Birthday Periodic Table
(Graphic) 200 years of stock market sectors
(Photos) Murals in London’s East End

To send you into the weekend, this happened 50 years ago earlier this week. The Beatles last performance. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 389

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Queen headlines this weekend’s concert series. Concert time is Saturday at 1:00 AM (Eastern US).

Fiona turned 2 this week! Here’s a click with a story and a photo gallery. Need more? Here’s a collection of videos.

We recently saw Vice at the theater. Some points: 1) Christian Bale was outstanding, 2) I was never a fan of Dick Cheney or any of the neo-Conservatives, 3) I’m not a fan of hyper-partisan movies, and 4) Oscar for Best Picture? Someone had to be kidding.

I’ve finally got around to listening to Podcasts. I greatly enjoy the Ted Radio Hour. CBS journalists Mo Rocca just released his first in a series called Mobituaries. The first episode was about Vaughn Meader. Does anyone remember him? He was the famous for his President Kennedy impressions. Does the First Family Album ring a bell?

Back to podcasts. The two series listed above are 1-hour segments. Any recommendations of podcasts that are 15 minutes or less?

Remember Mr. Blackwell’s best and worst dressed lists? He died in 2008, but Roger Stone (yes – that Roger Stone – the advisor to President Trump) picked up Blackwell’s mantle. I heard an interesting interview with him about his lists – so here they are.

Congratulations to the latest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, and Edgar Martinez. Cheers to Martinez finally getting his due, and a worthy tip of the cap to Mariano Rivera for being the first player ever to receive 100% of the votes on the first ballot. A worthy honor to a top-shelf player.

Super Bowl LIII is set. Two very entertaining games last weekend, but too bad the officials made a blatant error in one game, plus I don’t like the NFL’s overtime rule that determined the second game. Personally, I hope the Rams win.

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I not only don’t I understand comments like these, I’m even more surprised that people use them and others believe them.

  • “Stalin was a socialist who wanted healthcare for all, then went on to kill 80,000 people.” (Friend on Facebook)
  • “We have a society in which there are an awful lot of people who have no idea that Stalin, Hitler, Mao Tse-Tung all came to power promising the same kinds of things that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is promising. And it led to mass murder, it led to dictatorship, it led to genocide. These promises are old promises and they invariably lead to bad things.” (Ben Stein)

For goofy statements like the above, I have a simple response: Although I may not agree with the Left, I am glad they have their heads in the cloud because it is a response to the Right who have their heads up their ass – and I’m glad to be grounded with my eyes open and my brain thinking.

With all the bluster about the upcoming State of the Union, I could care less because I won’t be watching or listening.

Interesting how President Trump offered a DACA deal to the Democrats, and then the Supreme Court steps on Trump’s previous DACA actions. Oh how the stories around this administration get weirder and weirder.

White House Counsel Rudy Giuliani is competing with President Trump for best entertainment to those who know better. Earlier this week The Onion has this great headline: Giuliani: ‘Let’s Just Start Everything Over’ … and this Stephen Colbert about Rudy intro made me laugh. (It’s less than a minute.)

To lead you into The Onion, this headline and accompanying image may be one of the best ever. Click here to see.

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Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Man beginning to worry that best meals already behind him
Trump dismisses Trump as a distraction
Doctor weirded out by patient providing every lucid detail of medical history
Woman rushes to hide fragile objects, cover up sharp corners on tables before boyfriend comes over
Queen Elizabeth watches as oxen pull apart farmer who failed to provide yearly tithe of grain
Weird kid opts to sit perfectly still, let universe decide his fate after teacher instructs class to pair up

Interesting Reads

Rural states and clean energy
Ten cultural items turning 30
Tough economic times at Amsterdam brothels
Major news from the world of frog dating
Quinoa whiskey
(Photos) The architect exiled by Nazis
(Chart) Coal use by country

To send you into the weekend, here’s a song that I stumble across the other day that I hadn’t heard in a long time. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 380

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For those that missed Tuesday’s special announcement, Pronouns: The Musical this weekend with an Encore act featuring songs with two or more different pronouns used in this musical (or click here). See the SPECIAL page/tab (below the banner/header) for more information. Curtain time is Saturday at 1:00 am (Eastern US).

For the story writers in the crowd, hope you saw the Writing Challenge I issued earlier this week. See the Challenge page/tab (below the banner/header) for details (or click here). Responding to the challenge starts this coming Tuesday after I post my version. If you aren’t a short story person, pass along the challenges to others you know who may be interested.

A few days ago we saw First Man, the movie about astronaut Neil Armstrong. Interesting and well done, but I wouldn’t call it a must-see blockbuster. It’s not fast-moving, but has its tense moments. There’s a notice amount of silence throughout the movie. For most of his post-astronaut adult life, Mr. Armstrong lived in the Cincinnati area. From what I know of Armstrong’s personality, Ryan Gosling hit it!

I’m drafting a future post about shopping carts – which caused me to develop a new category – Shopping. Would you know it, I already have a few past posts that fit that new category. Feel free to visit the category in the future or by clicking here.

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President Trump says he could fire the entire Mueller investigation team to end the investigation. Mr. President, do what you mean and mean what you say. The time is now – enough talk – do it! Do what you say you can do. Do what you really want to do! Do it!!!

Although the anticipated Blue Wave didn’t not occur, Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. I give House Democrats a 95% chance to do something in one month (by the end of January 2019) that strengthens President Trump re-election – which I raise the chances of happening to 80%.

Gerrymandering is not new. Not only has it been around for a long time, both parties are guilty – even in recent times!

Important “-isms” are in the news: Anti-semitism, racism, Nazism, and others – let alone include other related terms as Islamophobia and homophobia. I want to toss in another one that would impact more than any of the above – partyism. After all, there is plenty of data showing pathetic candidates from each side getting sizeable number of votes.

Eight states still have straight ticket voting – the method allowing voters to cast votes for candidates in one party by making only one mark. Good news is that the number of states doing this pathetic practice is declining.

As an authentic independent who sneers at each party, I enjoyed this article about Congress by the Washington Post.

Last week I wrote these words, “Whereas the focus continues to be the last 14 words of the Second Amendment, I continue to say the key to the debate is the first 13 words. After all, those are the words not on the lobby wall at NRA headquarters.” This week brought us news of another mass shooting.

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion discovered the latest “I Voted” stickers from Nevada. Are you willing to look here?

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Man does incredibly well at slot machine demo embedded in ad
Girlfriend really has mind of her own today
Supposedly educated professor has no idea how to get bird out of lecture hall
Area man thankful to be single during Golden Age of Television
Slug just taking it easy today
Voter just needs to know which candidate chops wood in a flannel shirt
North Carolina voter in heavily gerrymandered district somehow voting for Montana Senate, Mayor Of Phoenix

Interesting Reads

Eastern and Western European differences
A large, unused airport
Analytics and health care
Butch Cassidy
The re-shaped Milky Way
(Photos) From the 2018 National Geographic Photo Contest
(Photos) Beautifully designed spas

To send you into the weekend, here’s that I heard for the first time earlier this week. Enjoy Alex Murdoch with All My Days. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 378

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Pronouns: The Musical is continue its trek this weekend featuring songs with Them in the title. Hint: This is not an easy theme. Curtain time is Saturday at 1:00 am (Eastern US).

Last weekend we attended a play that was a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was interesting and well done – plus the set was fabulous. Here’s the link with pictures.

Although our National Parks Tour was 15 nights, I’ve shorten the travel series to 5-6 posts. Next one is this Sunday night.

Regarding the two huge lotteries this week – well – not only did we not win – we were shutout – no numbers on any of the 6 tickets/lines.

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Election Day for the midterms is approaching – but not soon enough because I’m tired of all the campaign ads: especially those of the 2 races buying the most time.

Party partisans continue to ignore messages from the independent middle. For instance,

  1. Long ago I suggested that leader of Democrats in the House (Nancy Pelosi: D-CA) should step aside ahead of the election. With an approval rating that is much lower President Trump’s, Republicans continue to use her in negative ads.
  2. Shortly after Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination I suggested that Democrats NOT pursue blocking his nomination. Now that he’s on the Court, multiple polls show the Democratic actions have worked against them, thus improved the stature of Republicans in the public.

Regarding the recent mailing of bombs, the perpetrator has not been found. As the partisans take to the airways to point fingers at the other side, here are two important questions of initial focus: Who? Why? The second can’t be answered until determining the first. However, President Trump had a great opportunity to set a tone with his comments that night – and he obviously chose to take a different path – the usual low road.

I heard an interview when a person explain that it took Donald Trump to bring out the differences in Washington. ABSOLUTELY NOT! The difference have been steadily growing for the past 50 years, but Donald Trump has amplified the differences.

Updating the ever-changing odds:

  • Chance of Democrats gaining control in the House: 80%
  • Chance of Democrats gaining control in the Senate: 10%
  • Chance of Donald Trump being nominated by Republicans in 2020: 99.9%
  • Chance of Donald Trump winning re-election: 70%
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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion has a great picture about climate-change advocate Al Gore.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Thrill seeker microwaves pot pie without slitting crust
Mom hates bad guy in movie
Horrified nurses discover 40-pound baby after accidentally leaving it in incubator over weekend
Magpie worried mate only interested in him for collection of shiny objects
Study finds over 5 million birds die annually from head-on collisions with clouds
104-year-old reveals secret to long life being cursed by witch to wander Earth eternally

Interesting Reads

People over 65: Facts vs. opinions
A read about Claude Debussy
Africa and web conductivity
The European schism
(Pictures) Freak hailstorm in Rome
(Graphic) Most valuable global retail brands
(Video) A lady making arms

To send you into the weekend, here’s a throwback to Bruce Hornsby and the Range. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 375

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Pronouns: The Musical is continue its trek this weekend featuring songs with We in the title. Curtain time is Saturday at 1:00 am (Eastern US).

Even though I was out-of-town at a family event during the last act, cheers to all for demonstrating the show must go on. Special thanks to Dale for hosting!

Attendance for the musical has surprised me! Thanks to all participants!!!

Beach Walks resume this weekend (Sunday, after 9 pm Eastern US).

College football started last weekend and the NFL starts this weekend. I enjoy football, but my interest level has declined in recent years.

This week was the final week of the regular season of golf league. I entered the week will a good chance of making the playoffs to defend my championship. I played well, but my opponent had his best round in 20 years. I played good enough, and because there is no defense in golf, all I could do is congratulate him on his great round.

On Thursday, Cincinnati made the national news for the wrong reason – an unnecessary random shooting. Just more evidence that one never knows the whereabouts of someone unhinged. Unfortunately, it can happen anywhere.

Next week we hope to visit the Chocolate exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

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I believe Bob Woodward’s latest book (Fear) about the Trump Administration will NOT alter public perception.

The New York Times publishing an anonymous op-ed in their Opinions section is both intriguing and strange. I enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel’s thoughts, especially his speculation about the writer’s identify. For that, click here – and for what I described, start at 2:30. It’s worth the look.

Speculation continues about Joe Biden’s possible 2020 candidacy. I could vote for him – but I’m also afraid he could follow John McCain’s footsteps in losing my vote with his running mate selection.

I had to laugh at this statement by former President Obama about John McCain. “After all, what better way to get a last laugh to make George and I say nice things about him to a national audience.”

This article from Pew Research says it all: Democrats and Republicans agree that they can’t agree on the basic facts.

Newspapers are struggling. Pittsburgh may be the largest city in the US without a daily newspaper. More and more people are selecting a news source that delivers news they want to hear. Outside money continues to flood into local elections. I question if this famous quote is still valid: “All politics is local.” (Tip O’Neill)

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To lead you into this week’s dose of satirical headlines, The Onion provides a guide to Twitch: a top site for live-streaming video games.

Weekly Headlines from The Onion (combos welcome)

Button-up shirt goes on life-changing odyssey around dry cleaner’s garment conveyor
Societal collapse narrowly averted after man honks horn at car paused at green light
Nation baffled by childless woman who doesn’t even have high-powered career
Trail of ants better be leading toward something delicious
Free toothpick transforms schlubby restaurant-goer into aloof bad boy
Evolution definitively proven as scientists capture first-ever footage of chimpanzee transforming into human (Click here for the image)

Interesting Reads

10 rivalries that shaped world history
Venezuela, crisis, and families
Feminist icon in 17th Century India
The tennis grunt
Clipper ships and world trade
Linking mouse poop and traveling to Mars
(Photos) Celebrating British diversity

Even though Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, I’m continuing the summer theme to send you into the weekend. Enjoy this classic. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.