With Teen Mental Health Deteriorating Over Five Years, There’s A Likely Culprit

The Conversation

With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit

Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens.

In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.

In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background – more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call “iGen” – those born after 1995 – is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.

What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.

All signs point to the screen

Because the years between 2010 to 2015 were a period of steady economic growth and falling unemployment, it’s unlikely that economic malaise was a factor. Income inequality was (and still is) an issue, but it didn’t suddenly appear in the early 2010s: This gap between the rich and poor had been widening for decades. We found that the time teens spent on homework barely budged between 2010 and 2015, effectively ruling out academic pressure as a cause.

However, according to the Pew Research Center, smartphone ownership crossed the 50 percent threshold in late 2012 – right when teen depression and suicide began to increase. By 2015, 73 percent of teens had access to a smartphone.

Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets. We found that teens who spent five or more hours a day online were 71 percent more likely than those who spent less than an hour a day to have at least one suicide risk factor (depression, thinking about suicide, making a suicide plan or attempting suicide). Overall, suicide risk factors rose significantly after two or more hours a day of time online.

Of course, it’s possible that instead of time online causing depression, depression causes more time online. But three other studies show that is unlikely (at least, when viewed through social media use).

Two followed people over time, with both studies finding that spending more time on social media led to unhappiness, while unhappiness did not lead to more social media use. A third randomly assigned participants to give up Facebook for a week versus continuing their usual use. Those who avoided Facebook reported feeling less depressed at the end of the week.

The argument that depression might cause people to spend more time online doesn’t also explain why depression increased so suddenly after 2012. Under that scenario, more teens became depressed for an unknown reason and then started buying smartphones, which doesn’t seem too logical.

What’s lost when we’re plugged in

Even if online time doesn’t directly harm mental health, it could still adversely affect it in indirect ways, especially if time online crowds out time for other activities.

For example, while conducting research for my book on iGen, I found that teens now spend much less time interacting with their friends in person. Interacting with people face to face is one of the deepest wellsprings of human happiness; without it, our moods start to suffer and depression often follows. Feeling socially isolated is also one of the major risk factors for suicide. We found that teens who spent more time than average online and less time than average with friends in person were the most likely to be depressed. Since 2012, that’s what has occurred en masse: Teens have spent less time on activities known to benefit mental health (in-person social interaction) and more time on activities that may harm it (time online).

Teens are also sleeping less, and teens who spend more time on their phones are more likely to not be getting enough sleep. Not sleeping enough is a major risk factor for depression, so if smartphones are causing less sleep, that alone could explain why depression and suicide increased so suddenly.

Depression and suicide have many causes: Genetic predisposition, family environments, bullying and trauma can all play a role. Some teens would experience mental health problems no matter what era they lived in.

But some vulnerable teens who would otherwise not have had mental health issues may have slipped into depression due to too much screen time, not enough face-to-face social interaction, inadequate sleep or a combination of all three.

It might be argued that it’s too soon to recommend less screen time, given that the research isn’t completely definitive. However, the downside to limiting screen time – say, to two hours a day or less – is minimal. In contrast, the downside to doing nothing – given the possible consequences of depression and suicide – seems, to me, quite high.

It’s not too early to think about limiting screen time; let’s hope it’s not too late.

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/with-teen-mental-health-deteriorating-over-five-years-theres-a-likely-culprit/

Nanette Fabray, Perennial TV Mom, Dies At Age 97

Actress Nanette Fabray, who was known to modern audiences as the mother of Bonnie Franklin’s character on the CBS sitcom “One Day at a Time,” died Thursday at her home in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. She was 97.

The actress, born Ruby Nanette Bernadette Theresa Fabares in San Diego, was performing in vaudeville by the age of 4, according to The New York Times. 

By the age of 19, she was doing bit parts in Hollywood movies and made her Broadway debut in the 1941 musical comedy “Let’s Face It” opposite Danny Kaye.

In 1949, Fabray won a Tony for best actress in a musical for “Love Life,” which was directed by Elia Kazan and choreographed by Michael Kidd, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Her most notable film appearance was with Fred Astaire in “The Band Wagon” (1953), considered to be one of MGM’s best musicals.

Fabray also played a major part in the evolution of television. During the 1940s, NBC hired her to work as a demonstration model for color television because her skin tone showed off the technology just right.

During this time, Fabray was suffering from an undiagnosed hearing problem that affected her ability to perform. The condition, she later discovered, was otosclerosis, a disorder in which excessive growth in the bones of the middle ear interferes with the transmission of sound, according to the Los Angeles Times. One doctor predicted she’d lose her hearing in five years.

Fabray coped by learning sign language and wearing hearing aids. She also had four operations from 1955 to 1977 before her hearing was restored.

Also during that time, Fabray appeared on many classic sitcoms and variety shows. She won three Emmys in the 1950s for her work on Sid Caesar’s “Caesar’s Hour” variety show, according to Variety.

Fabray later became a popular guest on shows like “The Love Boat,” “Maude” and “Murder, She Wrote,” but her character niche seemed to be as the mom of a series star.

She played the mother of Ann Romano (Franklin) on “One Day at a Time” and the mother of Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” On the 1990s ABC sitcom “Coach,” Fabray portrayed the mom of a character played by Shelley Fabares, her real-life niece.

Fabray was married twice: to Broadway publicist David Tebet for four years and to screenwriter Ranald MacDougall from 1958 till his death in 1973. She had one son, Dr. Jamie MacDougall, who survives her, as does Fabares and her husband, actor Mike Farrell. 

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nanette-fabray-dead-at-97_us_5a90967ee4b0ee6416a34d70

A VR Movie Set in Space Just Landed a 7-Figure Deal at Sundance. Yes, You Read That Right

Every year the biggest news out of the Sundance Film Festival is always the hefty sums handed over to independent filmmakers for their passion projects. From Fox Searchlight dropping $1 million for future Oscar nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012 to Amazon Studios’ massive $12 million buy of The Big Sick at last year’s fest, everyone in Park City is hustling to make a deal. But that hustle has always been reserved for traditional films, not the virtual reality ones. Until now.

In an unprecedented move, VR financing and distribution venture CityLights announced today that it is acquiring Spheres—a three-part series that lets viewers explore the depths of space in VR—in a massive seven-figure deal. Neither side is revealing the exact figure, but for a medium that’s never sold at Sundance, it’s still a very big deal, and one that demonstrates VR filmmaking has the clout and buzz of its traditional film predecessors. It might even show that 360-degree immersive films will one day be as big a part of festivals as movies themselves.

"This is a historic moment for the VR industry; it signifies that a viable storytelling medium has emerged," says Jess Engel, who produced Spheres along with Arnaud Colinart, and Dylan Golden. "Deals like this establish VR as its own marketplace for independent creators, producers, and investors."

Spheres was executive produced by Protozoa Pictures’ Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel, and supported by Oculus and Intel; as part of the deal, secured on immersive funding platform Kaleidoscope, Spheres will premiere on Oculus Rift this year. After that, CityLights—itself a newly formed company—will expand distribution elsewhere. The first episode, Songs of Spacetime, premiered last weekend as part of Sundance’s New Frontier programming. Directed by relative newcomer Eliza McNitt and narrated by Jessica Chastain, it's a rich, slightly disorienting look at what it’s like to be there when two black holes collide. (It also features a score from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein of Survive, who performed Stranger Things' theme song.)

“The ambition and generative nature of the vision for Spheres perfectly fits with our mission to bring content to broader audiences and showcase the types of experiences only VR can deliver,” CityLights co-founder Joel Newton said in a statement announcing the deal.

So that’s the news. What it means, exactly, is yet to be determined. Virtual reality has been strengthening its toehold in the larger film world since before anyone had heard the term "Oculus Rift"—and each year, as the VR projects available at film festivals continue to multiply, they've gotten a little bit more juice, a little bit more attention. This acquisition will likely gain them more. But a VR experience being acquired by a venture looking to back VR is one thing; getting that same buy-in from a traditional studio or other entity is another. Seven figures, even if they’re low seven figures, is still a major buy—and it could mean even bigger ones aren’t very far behind.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/vr-film-spheres-huge-sundance-deal/

Scott Pruitt Just Gutted Rules To Fight The Nations Second Biggest Toxic Pollution Threat

WASHINGTON ― The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Thursday to scrap Obama-era rules tightening restrictions on disposal of coal ash, the toxic byproduct from coal-fired power plants that has caused major water contamination problems across the country.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt billed the new proposal as a bid to give states more independence over coal ash disposal, though he moved to reconsider the 2015 regulation in September at the request of fossil fuel utilities.

The EPA’s announcement makes no mention of the risks coal ash poses to human health and the environment. Rather, the agency justified its move by noting it is expected to save the utility sector between $31 and $100 million annually.

“Today’s coal ash proposal embodies EPA’s commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states,” Pruitt said in a statement.

Coal-fired power plants in the United States produce roughly 140 million tons of coal ash per year, containing toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium and other carcinogenic substances. The waste product is typically stored in wet ponds, nearly 46 percent of which operated without liners to prevent hazardous chemicals from seeping into groundwater, according to 2012 data released by the EPA.

Living within a mile of a wet coal ash storage pond poses a greater health threat than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, raising the risk of cancer to one in 50, an EPA study from 2010 found. Children are particularly at risk of learning disabilities, birth defects, asthma and cancer, with 1.54 million living near such storage sites, according to EPA data cited by the Sierra Club.

“This is the second biggest toxic pollution threat in our country, and we need to clean it up – not make things easier for polluters,” Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans said in a statement. “People living near more than a thousand toxic coal ash sites are at risk. They face contaminated drinking water, toxic dust in the air, and serious health threats just because the EPA is choosing to side with polluters over the public.”

In 2014, the EPA catalogued 158 cases where coal ash compromised water quality, including 22 that involved recycled waste product. And a government study in 2012 estimated that the damage to fish and wildlife at 21 disposal sites came at a cost of more than $2.3 billion, “enough money to construct 155 landfills with state-of-the-art composite liners and leachate collection systems.”

The rule change marks the Trump administration’s latest rollback of clean water regulations  at a time when drinking water contamination crises are proliferating across the country. In February 2017, less than a month after taking office, President Donald Trump signed a bill to allow coal companies to dump waste into streams. In June, the EPA moved to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule that extended 1972 Clean Water Act protections to roughly 20 million acres of wetlands and streams. The agency formally suspended the rule on Jan. 31.

Scrapping the only federal rules on coal ash presents a major problem  in the face of storms, floods and other extreme weather made more frequent and intense by climate change. When Hurricane Maria made landfall over Puerto Rico last year, flood waters swelled the river in the city of Guayama, wreaking havoc on the city’s 42,000 residents and distributing its five-story-tall tower of coal ash.

Coal ash in particular has long been a hot-button issue in the utility industry. In 2014, Duke Energy, one of the country’s biggest power companies, spilled nearly 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, causing one of North Carolina’s biggest environmental disasters in its history. In 2016, then Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill that dramatically watered down legislation forcing Duke to clean up its coal ash pits without requiring the company to excavate the waste or provide clean water to residents near the pond. Yet, two years later, the company is still battling environmentalists and regulators in the state as the utility seeks to pass the cleanup costs onto ratepayers in the form of a price hike.

In a separate legal fight over coal ash, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s biggest public utility, last month appealed a federal judge’s order to clean up decades of coal ash environmentalists say poisoned water in the Volunteer State. Eighteen states and an alliance of big corporate interests urged an appeals court to overturn the decision last month.

Gutting the EPA’s rules on coal ash pollution takes some pressure off the utilities, but thrusts the industry back into the sort of “regulatory uncertainty” Pruitt vowed to alleviate. In 2014, before the EPA passed its coal ash rule, the American Coal Ash Association, a trade group, complained about “regulatory uncertainty that has impeded the beneficial use of coal ash for half a decade.”

It’s unclear whether Pruitt’s new rule promotes recycling coal ash for other uses. Coal ash can be used to pave roads, though the environmentalists say even that poses pollution risks. And last year, Purdue University researchers announced new technology to sift rare earth elements ― highly-valued components used in electronics and renewable energy hardware ― out of coal ash waste.

Thomas Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, said he hopes the next part of the EPA’s announcement will include changing a rule that mandates companies to go through a risk evaluation when stockpiling more than 12,400 tons of coal ash for anything other than road projects. The EPA set the threshold in 2015 based on what Adams called an “arithmetic error” that he argued hurts the market for using coal ash in cement manufacturing or to fill structures such as building foundations. He said he hopes the EPA will raise the limit to 75,000 tons.

“It [the rule] depresses the market,” he told HuffPost by phone.

Thursday’s announcement is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to end a perceived “war” on coal waged by the Obama administration. Last year, the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group petitioned the EPA to roll back the Obama-era coal ash rule, calling it ”burdensome, inflexible, and often impracticable.” The organization of some 80 utilities warned that regulating coal ash disposal would “result in significant economic and operational impacts to coal-fired power generation,” and could even force power plants to shut down.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/epa-coal-ash-rule_us_5a999023e4b0a0ba4ad2e630

UFO evidence: Recordings reveal air traffic controls confusion at strange craft over Oregon

Unlike most UFO stories, this one appears to have substance.

On October 25, a strange craft was seen — in broad daylight — flying amid the heavy traffic of the United States’ air corridors above the state of Oregon.

Pilots radioed in reports of an aircraft flying outside registered flight plans. It was not responding to radio calls. It had no collision-avoidance transponders. But it was always just outside clear sight.

On the ground, air traffic control was also seeing strange things. Its radar was intermittently tracking an unregistered object moving at unusually high speeds.

It was cause for real concern.

After all, 9/11 showed the potential havoc aircraft flying “dark” could achieve.

So US Air Force F-15 interceptor fighters were scrambled to take a look.

The story was first picked up by The War Zone blog of automotive website The Drive. It tracked down comments from the pilots that had seen something strange that day. It also obtained confirmation — of sorts — from the US air base that launched the fighters.

Now War Zone has obtained through a freedom of information claim a small mountain of documents and hours of audio recordings detailing Oregon’s air traffic controller actions.

Amid the accounts of phone calls, radio exchanges and pilot interviews is an enticing picture of what a substantive UFO report looks like, and how authorities struggle to make sense of what is going on above them.


The unidentified flying object was first detected tearing through the air above Northern California by radar stations in Oakland. It was 4.30pm. It was unexpected. It was traveling “very fast at 37,000”.

It wasn’t supposed to be there.

At this point the recordings reveal the US military was also aware of the strange aircraft. Air traffic controllers are told the Air Force was examining the radar track.

Then the unknown flying object did something potentially dangerous.

It took a sudden turn into a crowded stream of commercial airliners.

There it disappeared from radar.

But not from sight.

Startled commercial pilots began calling in reports.

Concerned and confused, for the next 30 minutes pilots and controllers tried to make sense of what was going on.

The audio recordings tell the tale of an obviously bemused controller responding to pilots. He directs other pilots on where to look. He asks if any of their air safety proximity sensors were registering it.

The military was also in the loop: references to elements of the US air defense command NORAD can be heard — “WADS” and “Bigfoot”.

Fighters are ordered into the air from the McChord Air Force Base in Washington.

What was the aircraft? Where was it going? What was it doing?

All they had to go on was that it appeared to be big. It was colored white. It was flying at about 37,000 feet.

It was now moving about the same speed as commercial airliners. It was not on radar, and was emitting no signals.

It never strayed closer than the edge of visual range.


The radar and audio recordings reveal the F-15 interceptor fighters took to the air out of Portland. Dubbed “Rock” flight, these fighter aircraft are just some of those kept at a high alert status around the United States for incidents such as these after 9/11.

Strangely, they head south even as reports from commercial airliners indicate the strange craft was to the north.

One pilot calls air traffic control for an update: what’s going on?

The controller responds the UFO must be in “stealth mode or something”.

But by now it has slipped out of sight.

Losing touch with such an unregistered aircraft is no small thing.

Would it suddenly appear diving into the heart of a nearby city?

The scars of September 11 run deep.

So the urgent phone calls started.


Here the War Zone notes some unusual aspects of the Federal Aviation Authority recordings released under freedom of information requests.

“There were a few strange areas where conversations went mute and it’s not clear if this was edited or just an anomaly,” the blog reports.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the redacted components appear to be responses to requests for information about the military’s activities.

“When the Manager In Charge is asked if he was asking for military assistance by another FAA controller, the tape goes blank,” War Zone reports. “The same inquiry is heard moments later, and it goes silent again before another call begins.”

And again later, another “blank” occurs as pilots are asked about what they saw.

During a call with United 612 there are some odd “dead” moments in the audio, but the pilot is heard describing the encounter, stating that he was too far away to make out the type.

The pilot of Southwest 4712 was a little more forthcoming.

“This was a white airplane and it was big. And it was moving at a clip too, because we were keeping pace with it, it was probably moving faster than we were.”


The recordings continue long after the strange craft slips out of sight.

Seattle’s air traffic control Manager In Charge of Operations urgently interrogates controllers and three of the airline pilots that reported visual contact — as well as air traffic security and an safety officers.

Everyone had to submit written reports.

Had they responded correctly?

Should the commercial airliners have been ordered to keep the strange aircraft in sight?

Was the unknown flying object a threat, and should the airliners have been ordered to scatter?

Whatever the outcome, one air traffic controller hit the situation on the head with one off-the-cuff comment:

“I have a feeling someone is going to go through this with a fine-tooth comb.”


It’s tempting to immediately make the mental leap to aliens.

But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

And Occam’s razor makes the fair point that when seeking an explanation for something unusual, choose the one that makes the least assumptions as being the most likely.

So what could such an explanation be?

The US state of Oregon is in the country’s northwest. It’s alongside the state of Nevada. Nevada is the site of the ultra-secret US Air Force testing facility, Area 51 (or more officially Groom Lake).

We know the US Air Force is fast-tracking development of its next generation stealth bomber, the B-21 “Raider”. We also know that absolutely everything about this aircraft — including its cost — is top secret.

And that’s probably one of the least secret projects being worked on at Area 51.

But a test pilot first allowing themselves to be detected on radar, and then entering a highway of commercial airliners in plain sight, is unprofessional in the least.

And the US is no longer the only nation with stealth technology. Russia. China. Both have caught up and — in an increasingly belligerent world — are likely to “send messages” through overflights such as this.

So when it comes to the idea of ET taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque, it beggars belief that such a super intelligence capable of traveling vast interstellar distances would let itself be seen — if it didn’t want to be.

This story originally appeared in news.com.au.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/02/19/ufo-evidence-recordings-reveal-air-traffic-control-s-confusion-at-strange-craft-over-oregon.html

Pro-Gun Russian Bots Flood Twitter After Parkland Shooting

Each new breaking news situation is an opportunity for trolls to grab attention, provoke emotions, and spread propaganda. The Russian government knows this. Fake-news manufacturing teenagers in Macedonia know this. Twitter bot creators know this. And thanks to data-gathering operations from groups like the Alliance for Securing Democracy and RoBhat Labs, the world knows this.

In the wake of Wednesday’s Parkland, Florida, school shooting, which resulted in 17 deaths, troll and bot-tracking sites reported an immediate uptick in related tweets from political propaganda bots and Russia-linked Twitter accounts. Hamilton 68, a website created by Alliance for Securing Democracy, tracks Twitter activity from accounts it has identified as linked to Russian influence campaigns. As of morning, shooting-related terms dominated the site’s trending hashtags and topics, including Parkland, guncontrolnow, Florida, guncontrol, and Nikolas Cruz, the name of the alleged shooter. Popular trending topics among the bot network include shooter, NRA, shooting, Nikolas, Florida, and teacher.

On RoBhat Labs' Botcheck.me, a website created by two Berkeley students to track 1500 political propaganda bots, all of the top two-word phrases used in the last 24 hours—excluding President Trump's name—are related to the tragedy: School shooting, gun control, high school, Florida school. The top hashtags from the last 24 hours include Parkland, guncontrol, and guncontrolnow.

Ash Bhat, one of the project’s creators, says the bots are able to respond quickly to breaking news because they’re ultimately controlled by humans. In contrast to the Russia-affiliated Hamilton 68 bots, Bhat would not speculate on who is behind the bots that RoBhat Labs tracks. In some cases, the bot creators come up with hashtags, and use their bots to amplify them until they’re adopted by human users. “Over time the hashtag moves out of the bot network to the general public,” he says. Once a hashtag is widely adopted by real users, it’s difficult for Twitter to police, Bhat says. RoBhat Labs’ data shows this happened with the hashtag MemoDay, which bubbled up when House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’ controversial memo was released.

In other cases, the bots jump on existing hashtags to take control of the conversation and amplify a message. That’s likely what is happening with the Parkland shooting and the hashtag guncontrolnow, Bhat says.

'Over time the hashtag moves out of the bot network to the general public.'

Ash Bhat, RoBhat Labs

While RoBhat Labs tracks general political bots, Hamilton 68 focuses specifically on those linked to the Russian government. According to the group's data, the top link shared by Russia-linked accounts in the last 48 hours is a 2014 Politifact article that looks critically at a statistic cited by pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Twitter accounts tracked by the group have used the old link to try to debunk today’s stats about the frequency of school shootings.

Another top link shared by the network covers the “deranged” Instagram account of the shooter, showing images of him holding guns and knives, wearing army hats, and a screenshot of a Google search of the phrase “Allahu Akbar.” Characterizing shooters as deranged lone wolves with potential terrorist connections is a popular strategy of pro-gun groups because of the implication that new gun laws could not have prevented their actions. On Thursday President Trump tweeted as much: “So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior.”

Meanwhile, some accounts with large bot followings are already spreading misinformation about the shooter's ties to far-left group Antifa, even though the Associated Press reported that he was a member of a local white nationalist group. The Twitter account Education4Libs, which RoBhat Labs shows is one among the top accounts tweeted at by bots, is among the prominent disseminators of that idea:

Bret Schafer, a research analyst with the Alliance for Securing Democracy, says the spike in shooting-related posts from Russia-linked bots is in line with what his group observed after last year's shootings in Las Vegas and Texas. The Russia-linked bots weigh in on any attention-grabbing news event, but seize on shootings particularly. "Because of the politicized nature of them, they are perfect fodder to take an extreme position and start spreading memes that have a very distinct political position on gun control," he says.

'I don’t think the Kremlin cares one way or another whether we enact stricter gun control laws.'

Bret Schafer, Alliance for Securing Democracy

The use of pro-gun control hashtags like #guncontrolnow, along with the spread of anti-gun control links like the Politifact article, appear at first to show the Russian strategy of promoting discord on both sides of a debate. Russian-linked Twitter accounts have attempted to spread confusion and angst on topics ranging from police violence against black people, to NFL player protests, to Al Franken’s sexual misconduct accusations. (On other topics, like special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election, the bots have worked in concert to further the Kremlin's agenda.)

But in this case, Schafer suspects the use of pro-gun control hashtags like #guncontrolnow are being used sarcastically, particularly since they're often paired with the anti-gun control links. Since the Twitter accounts Hamilton 68 tracks often target right-wing audiences, Schafer believes the trolls are using the message to attract more eyeballs. "That allows them to then push content that is more directly related to the Kremlin’s geopolitical agenda," such as the Nunes memo, he says. "I don’t think the Kremlin cares one way or another whether we enact stricter gun control laws," he adds. "It's just being used as bait, basically."

Public awareness that antagonistic bots flood the Twitter debate hasn’t stopped them from achieving their goals of ratcheting up the vitriol—even amid a live tragedy like the Parkland shooting. The goal, after all, isn't to help one side or the other of the gun control debate win. It's to amplify the loudest voices in that fight, deepening the divisions between us.

Troll Takeover

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/pro-gun-russian-bots-flood-twitter-after-parkland-shooting/

Paul Ryan’s challenger bought Twitter followers in past: report

A Democratic challenger to House Speaker Paul Ryan has been named among a group of politicians, celebrities, journalists and others busted for paying an obscure company named Devumi to boost their Twitter followers.

According to a New York Times report, ironworker Randy Bryce purchased Twitter followers in 2015, when he was a blogger and labor activist. That’s before he launched his campaign to unseat Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.

“Back in 2015, Randy spent about $10-$20 to buy 1,000 to 1,500 followers. He was trying out blogging at the time,” said Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for Bryce’s campaign. 

Republicans lambasted Bryce for buying Twitter followers in the past. Jeremy Adler, communications director for Ryan’s campaign, said the story “exposes just how artificial” the support for Bryce is.

But Hitt noted that buying Twitter followers is “not something we’ve done on this campaign, and he’s gained over 200,000 followers on Twitter since we launched in July,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The New York Times report also listed Chicago Sun-Times film critic Richard Roeper as having spent money to buy Twitter followers with fake accounts.

Following the revelation, the Sun-Times announced Friday that Roeper will delete his existing Twitter account and create a new one, and it ditched plans to have Roeper write a news column.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/03/paul-ryans-challenger-bought-twitter-followers-in-past-report.html

Church of Scientology launches TV channel

The Church of Scientology launched its own TV channel with a vow that it will be candid about every aspect of the church and its operations but isn’t seeking to preach or convert.

“There’s a lot of talk about us. And we get it,” church leader David Miscavige said in introducing the first night of programming Monday. “People are curious. Well, we want to answer your questions. Because, frankly, whatever you have heard, if you haven’t heard it from us, I can assure you we’re not what you expect.”

Founded in 1954 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the church teaches that technology can expand the mind and help solve problems. It has about 10 million members worldwide.

Scientology is an “expanding and dynamic religion and we’re going to be showing you all of it,” he said, from the “spiritual headquarters” in which he was standing — a Florida-based, corporate-looking building— its churches around the world and a behind- the-scenes look at its management.

The channel also will explore the life and philosophy of Hubbard, whom Miscavige called “a true-to-life genius.”

With all that the channel intends to present, he said, “let’s be clear: We’re not here to preach to you, to convince you or to convert you. No. We simply want to show you.”

The first hour offered a slickly produced taste of the series to follow from an in-house studio, including “Meet a Scientologist,” ”Destination Scientology” and the three-part “L. Ron Hubbard: In His Own Voice.” The channel is available on DIRECTV, AppleTV, Roku, fireTV, Chromecast, iTunes and Google Play.

Miscavige didn’t directly address critics, but Scientology doesn’t lack for them. Several high-profile projects have investigated the church’s alleged abuses of former members, including actress Leah Remini’s A&E docuseries “Scientology and the Aftermath” and Alex Gibney’s Emmy-winning documentary, “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.”

Instead, the channel’s debut offered interviews with church members who touted Scientology’s rewards, showed off its impressive facilities in cities including Melbourne, London, Tokyo and throughout the United States and its work with other churches and community groups.

Viewers were introduced to ethnically diverse members including blue-collar workers, professionals and business owners. Miscavige noted that the church’s followers include “some of the most well-known artists and celebrities in the world.”

He didn’t name them, but Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley are among long-time Scientologists.

In one segment, members boasted of the church’s technological achievements, including development of the “E-meter” that reads “mental energy” and is used by an auditor to diagnose and improve people’s lives. An auditor, as explained in an on-screen caption, is “one who listens.”


Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2018/03/12/new-scientologytv-will-put-members-founder-in-spotlight.html

Attn: Kim Kardashian Lindsay Lohan Apparently Does Not Have A ‘European Accent’ Anymore!

It’s Lindsay Lohan‘s world… we’re just living in it! (LOL just kidding, it’s totally Kim Kardashian‘s world.)

In an article published on Monday, the Mean Girls star spoke to W Magazine about her life in Dubai, her return to acting, and her various upcoming projects, including her new cosmetics line.

Related: Lindsay Thinks Her Nasty Snake Bite Is ‘Good Luck’

And contrary to what Kim said in our Instagram comments, author Lauren McCarthy said she spoke “without a trace of the vaguely European accent she’s rumored to have adopted.”

There you have it!

When it comes to living in the United Arab Emirates, the 31-year-old enjoys not being a paparazzi target. She told the publication:

“There’s a certain calmness that I find there. There’s no paparazzi, no cameras; that’s a big deal for me… I never considered people taking a picture ‘bothering’ me, but I don’t want people to misinterpret who I am as a person if they see me sneezing and they say I’m crying. I do really appreciate having the life where I can just go outside and not have to worry.”‘

The actress even relies on a support network of female friends.

“It’s a very big place for female activists… Women have a very strong community. It’s a whole different world, which is really cool. It’s a place you think women don’t have as much of a right to be themselves, but they actually have more than you’d imagine.”

Although the thespian has made her fair share of headlines throughout the years, Lohan believes celebrity culture has gotten crazier due to technology and social media.

“It’s [called] an iPhone… We didn’t have Instagram… It would have been a lot calmer for me. When you think about it, paparazzi are not as crazy as they used to be when I used to be in New York. Now I can just [take a picture] before I walk out the door and then there is no story. It’s good, but it’s a little in-genuine. But don’t you think it’s going to go away? It used to be, the less you are seen, the better. But that’s impossible. What, are you never going to leave home?”

Last month, the thespian shared an image of herself next to an animated Batgirl (SEE HERE), in what many thought was an attempt to get Joss Whedon to cast her in theupcoming adaptation.

Apparently, Lindsay wants the role so badly, she thought about stalking the necessary people in Los Angeles to make it happen!

“I even considered flying to Los Angeles the other day just to stalk them for Batgirl… It’s true. I thought, How do I get to Los Angeles without anyone knowing that I’m there?”

Love her or hate her, you have to admit she is damn persistent!

Keep reading for more HIGHlights from her interview:

On her upcoming makeup line and more new projects: “I love lipstick, but I love using lipstick as blush. But if I have a cream blush, I want to be able to use it on my lips and not worry about breaking out after. So, I developed one… I did my leggings line, but I think I was filming [too much], and I didn’t have the focus. It’s closer to haute couture.”

On wanting to go to the Oscars: “But I don’t want to go just to go. I want to go because I have accomplished something great, and I just want to be there for the film. I don’t want any personal thoughts, or, I don’t want to come there with a statement of some kind. I just want to come there and say, ‘I’ve been aspiring to come here on the stage like all the Hollywood greats that I’ve looked up to my whole life—the Elizabeth Taylors, the Marlene Dietrichs, the Anne Baxters—and I’m here. Thank you.’ I just want to say thank you.”

See pics from the spread (below)!

Thank you @wmag for a wonderful shoot! Great day with @brigittelacombe 📷A post shared by Lindsay Lohan (@lindsaylohan) on Feb 5, 2018 at 8:25am PST

[Image via Jason Mendez/WENN.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-02-05-lindsay-lohan-kim-kardashian-w-magazine-upcoming-projects

GitHub Survived the Biggest DDoS Attack Ever Recorded

On Wednesday, at about 12:15 pm EST, 1.35 terabits per second of traffic hit the developer platform GitHub all at once. It was the most powerful distributed denial of service attack recorded to date—and it used an increasingly popular DDoS method, no botnet required.

GitHub briefly struggled with intermittent outages as a digital system assessed the situation. Within 10 minutes it had automatically called for help from its DDoS mitigation service, Akamai Prolexic. Prolexic took over as an intermediary, routing all the traffic coming into and out of GitHub, and sent the data through its scrubbing centers to weed out and block malicious packets. After eight minutes, attackers relented and the assault dropped off.

The scale of the attack has few parallels, but a massive DDoS that struck the internet infrastructure company Dyn in late 2016 comes close. That barrage peaked at 1.2 terabits per second and caused connectivity issues across the US as Dyn fought to get the situation under control.

“We modeled our capacity based on fives times the biggest attack that the internet has ever seen,” Josh Shaul, vice president of web security at Akamai told WIRED hours after the GitHub attack ended. “So I would have been certain that we could handle 1.3 Tbps, but at the same time we never had a terabit and a half come in all at once. It’s one thing to have the confidence. It’s another thing to see it actually play out how you’d hope."

Real-time traffic from the DDoS attack.

Akamai defended against the attack in a number of ways. In addition to Prolexic's general DDoS defense infrastructure, the firm had also recently implemented specific mitigations for a type of DDoS attack stemming from so-called memcached servers. These database caching systems work to speed networks and websites, but they aren't meant to be exposed on the public internet; anyone can query them, and they'll likewise respond to anyone. About 100,000 memcached servers, mostly owned by businesses and other institutions, currently sit exposed online with no authentication protection, meaning an attacker can access them and send them a special command packet that the server will respond to with a much larger reply.

Unlike the formal botnet attacks used in large DDoS efforts, like against Dyn and the French telecom OVH, memcached DDoS attacks don't require a malware-driven botnet. Attackers simply spoof the IP address of their victim and send small queries to multiple memcached servers—about 10 per second per server—that are designed to elicit a much larger response. The memcached systems then return 50 times the data of the requests back to the victim.

Known as an amplification attack, this type of DDoS has shown up before. But as internet service and infrastructure providers have seen memcached DDoS attacks ramp up over the last week or so, they've moved swiftly to implement defenses to block traffic coming from memcached servers.

"Large DDoS attacks such as those made possible by abusing memcached are of concern to network operators," says Roland Dobbins, a principal engineer at the DDoS and network-security firm Arbor Networks who has been tracking the memcached attack trend. "Their sheer volume can have a negative impact on the ability of networks to handle customer internet traffic."

The infrastructure community has also started attempting to address the underlying problem, by asking the owners of exposed memcached servers to take them off the internet, keeping them safely behind firewalls on internal networks. Groups like Prolexic that defend against active DDoS attacks have already added or are scrambling to add filters that immediately start blocking memcached traffic if they detect a suspicious amount of it. And if internet backbone companies can ascertain the attack command used in a memcached DDoS, they can get ahead of malicious traffic by blocking any memcached packets of that length.

"We are going to filter that actual command out so no one can even launch the attack," says Dale Drew, chief security strategist at the internet service provider CenturyLink. And companies need to work quickly to establish these defenses. "We’ve seen about 300 individual scanners that are searching for memcached boxes, so there are at least 300 bad guys looking for exposed servers," Drew adds.

"It’s one thing to have the confidence. It’s another thing to see it actually play out how you’d hope."

Josh Shaul, Akamai

Most of the memcached DDoS attacks CenturyLink has seen top out at about 40 to 50 gigabits per second, but the industry had been increasingly noticing bigger attacks up to 500 gbps and beyond. On Monday, Prolexic defended against a 200 gbps memcached DDoS attack launched against a target in Munich.

Wednesday's onslaught wasn't the first time a major DDoS attack targeted GitHub. The platform faced a six-day barrage in March 2015, possibly perpetrated by Chinese state-sponsored hackers. The attack was impressive for 2015, but DDoS techniques and platforms—particularly Internet of Things–powered botnets—have evolved and grown increasingly powerful when they’re at their peak. To attackers, though, the beauty of memcached DDoS attacks is there's no malware to distribute, and no botnet to maintain.

The web monitoring and network intelligence firm ThousandEyes observed the GitHub attack on Wednesday. "This was a successful mitigation. Everything transpired in 15 to 20 minutes," says Alex Henthorne-Iwane, vice president of product marketing at ThousandEyes. "If you look at the stats you’ll find that globally speaking DDoS attack detection alone generally takes about an hour plus, which usually means there’s a human involved looking and kind of scratching their head. When it all happens within 20 minutes you know that this is driven primarily by software. It’s nice to see a picture of success."

GitHub continued routing its traffic through Prolexic for a few hours to ensure that the situation was resolved. Akamai's Shaul says he suspects that attackers targeted GitHub simply because it is a high-profile service that would be impressive to take down. The attackers also may have been hoping to extract a ransom. "The duration of this attack was fairly short," he says. "I think it didn’t have any impact so they just said that’s not worth our time anymore."

Until memcached servers get off the public internet, though, it seems likely that attackers will give a DDoS of this scale another shot.


Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/github-ddos-memcached/