Blog Entry #11 The NFL and Player Concussion

A class action suit by more than 4,000 former NFL players against the NFL is currently being settled.  The players claim that the league covered up a link between football and brain damage.  In 2011 defensive back Dave Duerson committed suicide, and was diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.  CTE is a degenerative brain disease that has been linked to many sports specifically football.

The suit shows that there is pressure on the NFL to protect its players.  Bob spoke with Mark Waller- the NFL’s Chief Marketing Officer about public service announcements the league was running regarding head injuries.  One PSA in particular featured Ray Lewis and Tom Brady.  This ad focused on what the NFL was doing to make the game safer.  Boasting new rules, raising 100 million dollars for medical research, and better equipment, which can be seen in the link below.

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3iE6Jnh8jU

Bob Costas states the campaign is “oddly whimsical.”  He went on to compare this campaign to the tobacco industries PSAs in the past.  He looks at the body language and explicit language of the campaign and says it is reminiscent to the tobacco industries “insidiousness of their business.”

Mark Waller responded that the add was “for getting peoples attention.”  He goes on to explain the tobacco advertisements are a flawed comparison, because it was in the latter half of tobacco industry that they were using this type of ad, and it is just the beginning for the NFL.  He says that the league is being transparent in the information that they are putting out.  They want to give the right information and as much as possible to inform the public about the dangers of the sport and what is being done.  Then parents and children can make an educated decision whether to play the game, or watch the game.

Earlier in the discussion, Bob mentioned that he almost felt bad for being an enabler of the sport. He claims to be an avid fan and says that watching football is basically ritual to him, but that he has noticed the violence and almost gladiator like aspect that the game has turned into. Football is supposed to be a violent sport. It is about physical contact, skill and teamwork, purely. We still allow two men to walk into a ring and beat each other up in sports like wrestling, boxing, or MMA. Some elements of football, such as helmet to helmet hits, should not be allowed. But, if the league continues to change the game, it will evolve too much and true fans will certainly lose interest.

1.  Do you agree with Waller that the PSAs were informative and attention grabbing?

2.   Is the campaign similar to the tobacco industry’s ads of the past?

3.  Do we become enablers of this violence by watching sports?

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Blog Entry #10 Guns as Free Speech?

According to momsdemandaction.org, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was created to demand action from legislators, state and federal, companies and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms. The group could be compared to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which is a protest group attempting to decrease the issue of driving while intoxicated.

Last weekend, the group met in a restaurant located in a Dallas suburb. While having their meeting, a group of protesters (men, women and children alike) met in a parking lot outside the restaurant. This sounds like your everyday strike, but these protesters weren’t holding picket signs; they were wielding assault rifles! The protesters claim to be expressing their first amendment rights through the carrying of these weapons.

Protesters outside the restaurant in Texas

The biggest question at hand is if an open-carry demonstration truly expresses free speech? In Texas, there is an open-carry law, meaning that you can carry around any weapon as long as you do not intend to do harm. The protesters have stated that they are not attempting to threaten Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, but they are trying to open up the discussion about the second amendment. Regardless of these claims, it does not eliminate the fear that the small group of women experienced.

There are a lot of ways to frame this story. While there are extreme criminal connotations associated with spying on this anti-gun group of women and pretending to be interested through their facebook page and then showing up to their meeting armed, there were no laws violated. The demonstration was a matter of proving that guns are a constitutional right. But the real question is: Did the demonstration prove anything at all?

Sure, they had guns and didn’t cause any physical harm, but the fact that they these guns were so openly expressed with pride might be more of a cause for concern.

What if the women, after witnessing this gun demonstration pulled out their own guns and shot the demonstrators. Would they be to blame? Couldn’t they argue that their shots fired were for self defense?

Executing this sort of demonstration is dangerously exploiting the right to bear arms in a way that doesn’t support the reasons for the right to bear arms in the first place. If viewing the issue from the creators of the second amendment, this situation would definitely be considered abusing the right. However, since the right exists, shouldn’t its freedoms be respected in all forms? Shouldn’t this demonstration be just as acceptable as the women getting together to discuss the gun control laws?

Did the demonstrators cross a line?

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Blog Entry #9 The Ever Changing NFL Bullying Story

The conflict between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin has been getting a lot of attention lately because the situation is atypical. Both men are professional football players on the Miami Dolphins. Incognito has been suspended by the NFL for using racist and vulgar language in voice mails and text messages to Martin. Sources say that death threats and racist remarks were fired.

Teammates, friends?

There are multiple issues that make this story especially compelling. First is the fact that online bullying is not an issue that is confined to only middle school and high school drama; in fact, it can be a problem for older people who are portrayed by the media as “tough guys.”

Secondly, this story puts in question the rules of privacy of personal information such as emails and text messages.

Finally, the story poses the question of how to frame the situation. From the outside, it seems obvious that Incognito crossed a line, but perhaps death threats and racism is commonplace in the privacy of the locker room. Perhaps Martin’s “tattletale” was uncalled for and put the whole team in a negative spotlight.

Several sources are saying that it was Martins emotional issues that caused this controversy to be blown out of proportion. Martin was a Stanford educated football player who studied classics with a focus on ancient history, and the son of Harvard grads. All of these statistics lead people to assume that he is a “softy”.

Another stereotype emerged, that just because Martin was a large, 315 pound football player, he is unable to be bullied. Is this to say that just because of someone’s size and profession, they cannot be bullied? Everyone, no matter what size, color, race, etc. withholds emotions. In our culture, we form and shape the mold of what a football player must be. Big, strong, tough as nails, you name it. Football players cannot and are not supposed have emotions, but they do.

This is the case with Martin, who experienced several racial slurs and offensive language and was issued a death threat by fellow teammate Richie Incognito. Does this happen often in the NFL locker room? Is Martin the first, of hopefully many NFL players, to express how they have been verbally attacked or broken down by a fellow teammate?

The Miami Dolphins are looking to protect their team, and are sticking together through the allegations which have become a media event.  The problem with this form of team comradery is that they are not acknowledging bullying as an issue.

Martin has been called a wimp by other players in the NFL and the media.  He has gotten negative feedback for coming forward about being bullied. Now what player of any age, race, size or religion is going to claim that he has been bullied.

Potentially now victims will be bullied, and they will be even more afraid to report the incident.  And who would not be, after the who team sided with the accused bully.   Who has been called one of the dirtiest players in the NFL.

What does this event in the NFL mean for other players and athletes of all ages?

 

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Blog Entry #8 Actually, We Can’t Keep It

It seems that President Obama cannot escape controversy in regards to his new health care plan. This time around, heads have spun because of his most recent fallacy. Obama said, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”. An NBC nightly news report discovered that one woman’s insurance agency was not able to offer her current policy anymore due to the new law. The Obama administration admitted that they would not be surprised if millions [of Americans] would have to lose or change their individual policies.

"If you have it, you can keep it"

The New York Times has produced a super cut to make jabs at the president. They took all of the times in which the president has made this claim and formed them into one clip. Obama promises us [the American people] 23 times, in different words, that we can keep our current plans. This cut can be found here.

There are millions of cases in the United States in which people either need to change their health insurance plan, or will lose their current health insurance plan. Through the eyes of these millions of people, Obama is lying outright: They have a plan, but they cannot keep it.

Is Obama to blame?

On one hand, the truth is that he did lie to the American people about the Affordable Health Care Act in the way that he phrased “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”

On the other hand, the nature of the Affordable Health Care Act guarantees health insurance coverage for all United States citizens, and in most cases, people can keep their current plan. In most cases. However, it’s the fact that some people have to change their plan that makes Obama look like a liar.

The essence of this discussion frames Obama in a severely negative way, but it is the media’s fault for portraying Obama this way. It is the media that counted and published the number of times quoting Obama saying “if you have it, you can keep it.” The media frames Obama as intentionally lying when in reality, he is addressing the people who have plans that are acceptable, and don’t need to be altered.

We live in a society that looks at everything the President says in a critical way, a malicious mindset. That is why the Obama administration often denies releasing information, because of the way the media frames it. When no information is released, Obama is criticized for not being transparent or for scheming, but when information is released, every word is critically analyzed. He can’t win, and that’s the nature of the society we live in.

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Blog Entry #7 How Do We Secure Personal Data?

According to Information Week, Vietnamese criminals posing as a U.S.-based private investigator successfully tricked Experian into selling them social security and driver’s license numbers, bank account and credit card data and birth dates. Experian is one of the three main global information services groups in the world. Avivah Litan is a fraud and security research analyst at Gartner, an American information technology research and advisory firm, and helps put the Experian data breach into context.

Litan calls for a radical change in the way we are sharing consumer data. She discusses how encryption does not even work anymore and that it can be bypassed by governments and even criminals. Encryption is the process of encoding information in such a way that only those who are allowed to view the information can read it.

Credit Card companies have done a good job in their efforts to prevent fraud. Brooke brings up how we occasionally get a phone call from our bank asking us if we actually made a purchase. It shows that they are giving an effort. But as Litan discusses, when it comes to identity data, there is no private sector mechanism that can creative incentives to stop the theft.

Avivah Litan was discussing that things that used to be private are not anymore.  Things like bills, addresses and credit history are not just know by you.  We think that using encryptions keep our information safe.  But the government wants a backdoor entry to get past these encryptions, so our mothers maiden names, and first pet, high school mascot questions four our protection are no longer helpful and safe.  If the government is using a backdoor to encryptions then criminals absolutely are.  This means that encryptions are  now a thing of the past.  They are no longer working in the consumers’ favor.

Currently there is very little that can be done about your personal information being with data brokers.  Essentially our entire financial history is with these companies.  Some data brokers have put up pages on their sites to remove personal information.  This is not an easy process though.  Notarized documents, and signed information must be sent into the company, which gives them much more information than they already have.  The consumer then has to trust that the company will not use the new information and take down what is currently available.  It is a lot of work, and it could put you at greater risk for identity theft.

Brian discussed something that this nation is lacking is a National Data Breach Disclosure Law.  It would create privacy and protection for consumers against fraud and information disclosure.  Currently 48 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring data companies to alert consumers if there is a breach in data security.  He feels that a law like this is truly an issue that would get bipartisan support.

Why is this breach of data happening so easily?

When it comes to alerting the consumer, why don’t data brokers work as efficiently as banks and credit card companies?

Do you think that there should be a National Data Breach Disclosure Law?

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Blog Entry #6 The Obama Administration and the Press

The Obama Administration

The Committee to Protect Journalists released a study on Obama’s refusal to give journalists access to White House information.

When Barrack Obama first ran for office, one of his several campaign promises was, “no more secrecy”. He made a promise to the American people to make government occasions, such as law writings, more public. This pledge was believable because the people did not think it could get much worse than George Bush, who was certainly not a fan of the media. But, according to a report released on Thursday, October 11th by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Obama administration has itself been historically and dangerously hawkish about protecting government secrets.

With the available technology in today’s new digital age, political administrations are able to bar the media from reports, events, or anything that they may attempt to get their hands on. And if the media and press are barred from getting information from the White House, the information being provided to the public is created, molded, and filtered by the White House administration. The West Wing report is an example of this. This report is published in the West Wing and goes directly to the public. There is no press involved, no middle-men, and no questions asked. The problem with this report is that it can be biased; it tends to be self-serving to the White House administration and useful to its consumers. Since the size of the walls around the White House are getting bigger and bigger, figuratively speaking of course, it is impossible to say whether the information is accurate or not.

The most chilling aspect of keeping Americans in the dark is the fact that when the White House doesn’t like the idea of a reporter’s story, they can refuse to release any information. This means that newsworthy, maybe even pivotal information is being denied to the citizens of the United States because Obama wants to protect his public image.

The author of the study, Len Downie, recalls when the congress was less limited and “you know… actually passed laws.” He is associating the government’s deadlock with the increase in media technology outlets. It makes sense. Look at facebook for example: A kid that gets a facebook account becomes friends with his parents, his coworkers, his guy friends, and the girls he is trying to impress. How can he possibly make posts that can impress all of those people at the same time? Because his information will always be available for any of these people to investigate. The guys will think he’s cool if he posts a drinking picture, but his parents might punish him for it. This kid will eventually use his privacy settings to block certain people from certain things. This is something technology has taught us to do, cater certain personalities to specific people. And the White House is no different; when there is important information that will give a significant amount of people a bad impression of Obama’s administration, it is much easier to block the information than to deal with the repercussions.

Is Obama to blame, or society in general?

Is it possible to stop the secrecy problem from getting worse? How?

 

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Blog Entry #5 Paid Partisan

A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research asked basic factual questions about politics. The kicker of this experiment was half of the people surveyed were given a tangible reward for the right answers. Gregory Huber said that when the basic factual questions were asked like “How old was Barrack Obama at the time of his election?” When there was a tangible incentive, the accuracy increased.  The point that was brought up is that many times when people take surveys with no incentive, like the other half of this study, they are more likely to answer the questions in a way that reflect the views of their political party.  Because when these findings are published, they want it to favor their party’s belief, it looks bad when ideas do not match policy.  This could be negative for other party policies as well. It is almost a form of political cheer leading for their teams policy.

When you pay people, you find that the size of those differences between democrats and republicans is substantially smaller,” says Huber. After the study, it was found that about half of the gap between republicans and democrats went away. Huber thinks that many people are using surveys as a form of cheer-leading. They may answer questions with a false statement even if they know the truth, just to make their political side sound better. It has been found that people are not taking themselves too seriously when they take surveys. When people have an incentive, they tend to take themselves more seriously. These polls are not publicly displayed, so people do not feel too bad about dropping their team just to win a prize.

This brings up the question of how accurate polls are that we often reference.  If people say a more accurate response for money, then they know they are reporting inaccurate responses in other polls.  When there is not a reward at stake, people make a conscious effort to respond in the way they should, rather than the way they feel. Partisanship is very strong through the nation, in fact it has had our government shut down for the past week.  That is why this study is so interesting.  We stick with our parties until we are offered an incentive to speak our mind.  This brings up the question of, what incentives does the partisan government need to start up again?  Will they also be as easy to give up a party belief for their own, even though it might be on a blurred party line?  Although this study suggests yes, probably not.  Our nation is in a difficult position and its going to take a lot for anybody to make a choice out of their party lines now.  It will have to be a very large Amazon gift card to stop partisanship during the current, seemingly never ending,  government shutdown.

What does this say about our society?

Why are we more truthful with ourselves and others if we have an incentive?

 

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Blog Entry #4 Battling Messages on Obamacare

Photo courtesy of the Washington Post

When it comes to president Barrack Obama’s new Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare, the views are severed. Our society continues to be battered by ads in support and ads in strong opposition of the presidents new law. And yes, Obamacare is a law and has been a law since 2010. It’s not going away. On one hand, Obama, his administration, and most of the democratic party are attempting to educate the American people about this new law. Though they want the public to be well informed, Chuck Todd of NBC thinks that president Obama and his administration have not done a very good job. NBC has been attempting to explain the law, to the best of their ability, in a consumer fashion. On the other hand, conservative groups like Generation Opportunity are in strong opposition of the law. They are storming the web with their new branded “opt-out” of Obamacare ads, which feature a very creepy Uncle Sam performing some pretty personal and painful procedures. Uncle Sam is a clear symbol of the American government, while the procedures stand for the painful process that is Obamacare.

As previously mentioned, Chuck Todd of NBC, feels that nobody has done a good job educating the public about Obamacare.  The Democrats almost pushed it aside during the last election, not wanting it to hurt their chances of reelection.  The Republicans had nothing to lose and launched a full campaign against it.  This has left many of American’s uninformed about the law.  For example 51 percent of respondents to the Kaiser Association felt they did not understand the implications of Obamacare.  Does this leave it to the media?  Our Founding Fathers wanted there to be freedom of the press so there is another check on the government.  Chuck Todd mentioned that it is not the medias job to sell the public on the law, or educate them.  He feels that the media is responsible for is to educate the audience in a consumer fashion.

In all, the government and the people of the United States are at a very divided point regarding Obamacare. It is becoming an issue that is no longer an issue; it is purely mudslinging. The government has created such a drastic divide between parties that the media has no way of educating the common American of what the issue actually pertains to.

The solution to the problem must be dealt with through both the media and the government itself. Using terms such as “Obamacare” loosely is misleading and vague. This must be filtered more by the media so that the audience doesn’t automatically associate healthcare with Obama and hence, the democrats. But on the other hand, the government must take action too. The parties need to shift the focus from a marketing scheme to a rationale solution. It has become such a fragile issue that the government is facing a potential shutdown this evening. While it may hurt the economy, it can only trigger a better relationship between the Republicans and the Democrats.

 

Was it the media’s responsibility to educate the public about Obamacare?

How big of a roll do these mixed messages of Obamacare have in the possible shutdown of the government?

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Blog Entry #3 Technology is Making Us Smarter Than You Think

Technology Making Us Smarter Than You Think

The way the internet has changed our lives over recent decades has taken a great deal of criticism. Many people argue that the loss of face to face communication is making us socially inept, that our reliance on instant information is making us not learn new things, and that the constant availability of entertainment is making us lose focus. However, journalist Clive Thompson makes a case that technology is making people smarter in his  book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better.

One of his main points is that scholars can work together on cutting edge research. When Darwin was researching and writing his theory of evolution, he didn’t know that other people were doing the same research at a different place, but at the same time. Thompson’s point is that technology has drastically improved collaboration. The quality of research can be improved by people coming together based on what they find online. Collaboration also improves the speed of research. While it took Darwin two years to release his research, the internet allows scholars to publish findings instantly.

Another point that Thompson makes is that the interent creates an “ambient awareness.” By this he means that seeing the way one person tweets, can be mundane, but it can also offer a fantastic look into how that particular person thinks. Even if internet reduces face to face communication, the way people post on social media offers personal knowledge in its own way

Google Glass Photo by Ted Eytan

Socrates thought that writing would dumb our society down because we would stop us from having to use our minds and remember everything we possibly could. I do not think that Socrates could have ever anticipated the technology we would posses today. One of the issues brought up in the novel is human memory in the digital age. Clive is partially in agreement because he thinks that recording only makes us forget sooner. However, when discussing his his conversation with Thad Starner, who carried the prototype for Google Glass, Clive thought that the eye computer added to the conversation rather than take away from it. Thad was able to access notes from years past and bring them up for his conversation and Clive was more distracted by his phone than Thad was from the eye  computer. This new technology enables us to store every ounce of knowledge we can throughout our life and then sort through it. The problem is that we have to be able to manage this properly. That will be the struggle in the next decade or so.

One of the questions posed was, “in this new digital age, how are children learning to write?”. Our society is increasingly relying on electronic text versus hand written. Kids are now texting, tweeting, and instant messaging rather than picking up a pen. Although this may sound like a negative concept, it actually has its benefits. Historically, it was challenging to get children to write because they had no audience. Normally they were writing for a teacher who was paid to grade their work and that was that. With today’s new technology and social media, kids have an audience. Whether it is posting a status to friends and family or creating their own personal blog, there is someone there to see their work. According to Clive, kids have started writing more than any generation ever has in the past.

Is technology actually making us smarter?

What is the difference between information and knowledge?

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Blog Entry #2 The Danger of Freelance Journalism in Syria

There is no shortage of information when it comes to the drama taking place outside the Syrian border. Mass media from any nation can stand back and report at a safe distance. The information that we thrive for from within the country only comes from freelance journalists and photographers who are inside the country. All of these reporters are putting themselves in great personal risk. The committee to protect journalists reports that nearly half of the journalists killed in Syria since the conflict began were freelancers. Due to risks and liabilities, several UK based newspapers stated that they would no longer use freelance journalists in war zones. However, as the crisis in Syria has escalated, the UK has been soliciting freelance help, completely going against their word. Richard Pendry says that it is all about the money for these papers. He believes that these papers are attempting to cut back on their own liabilities rather than up the safety for their freelance reporters.

Francesca Borri is an Italian freelance writer in Syria and she writes for the Colombia Journalism Review. She discusses how freelance journalists are actually not free at all. People have a false stereotype regarding freelance journalists. They believe journalists choose this position because they want to be there. This is rarely true. The editors place these journalists on the front lines, where the main conflict is, rather than in a safe location. These editors only care about the blood, violence and action and want every grainy detail. Both Pendry and Borri discuss how expensive it is to be a freelance journalist in Syria. These journalists cannot afford insurance and cannot afford to be wounded. Borri says that most are paid around seventy dollars a piece and that editors know this is a very minute amount of salary for there journalists to live off of.

It is becoming increasingly dangerous for media to use international freelance writers, or members of “the tribe.”  However they are becoming so much of a liability, because they are often held for ransom, or kidnapped.  The news media who purchased then becomes liable for them, and the story they purchased becomes evidence. News sources are now waiting to purchase stories until the reporter is safely out of the country. It puts media sources in a bad spot.  They are expected to report on the current status from the front line. These international journalists are the cheapest form of correspondence for the news media.  This poses a problem, because there has to be a way to report from the front lines.

Other problems arise out of who is reporting.  According to On the Media many of the reporters are Syrian Nationals are working for The Wire.  This brings a bias opinion to the article, because the reporter is commenting on a civil war in their own country, on the front lines giving a real up close perspective.

Does the media force these violent images upon us unwillingly or do we desire them? Why do we accept this/allow this to happen?

 

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