Western Village first opened its doors back in the early 1970s. Originally quite a modest affair known as Kinugawa Family Ranch, the Wild West theme park did well and gradually expanded, hence the name change. Yet despite such success, changing times resulted in changing fortunes, and in 2006 it was forced to close — meaning that the park now sits empty and forlorn by the side of the road. An odd, wholly unexpected sight in a relatively sparsely populated area a few hours north of Tokyo.
Increasingly battered by the weather and years of neglect, it nonetheless still retains the look one would expect.
Visiting at the end of a politically tumultuous 2016, however, it wasn’t these out of place structures that made an impact. Instead, it was the park’s haunted looking residents and their unintended, yet no less terrifying depiction of a world turned utterly upside down. The world in which we currently live in, basically.
Considering its theme, and the period in which Western Village opened, it’s perhaps not surprising that one particular, distinctly larger-than-life personality was chosen to front it.
And, as a follicly challenged right winger with a weirdly orange complexion, such a choice seems disturbingly prescient.
So now, instead of an innocent recreation of all things cowboy-related, this celebrity led world feels like a truly disturbing vision of a potentially very near future. One in which the inner machinations and ulterior motives of those pulling the presidential strings are very much to the fore.
Sometimes there’s nothing more awesome than finding beauty in unexpected places. When the team at Beauty of Science dropped a few M&M’s into water under a Sony A7R M2 camera they discovered that the time-lapse process of the candy dissolving was incredibly beautiful.
Watch as each piece of candy becomes a sugary supernova:
We need more text and fewer videos and memes in the age of Trump.
Hossein Derakshan writes: If I say that social media aided Donald Trump’s election,
you might think of fake news on Facebook. But even if Facebook fixes the algorithms that elevate phony stories, there’s something else going on: social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.
I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was
decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.
Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.
Like TV it now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated “post-truth” as the word of 2016: an adjective “relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals.”
Neil Postman provided some clues about this in his illuminating 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The media scholar at New York University saw then how television transformed public discourse into an exchange of volatile emotions that are usually mistaken by pollsters as opinion. One of the scariest outcomes of this transition, Postman wrote, is that television essentially turns all news into disinformation. “Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information—misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information—information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing … The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining.” (Emphasis added.) And, Postman argued, when news is constructed as a form of entertainment, it inevitably loses its function for a healthy democracy. “I am saying something far more serious than that we are being deprived of authentic information. I am saying we are losing our sense of what it means to be well informed. Ignorance is always correctable. But what shall we do if we take ignorance to be knowledge?” Read the rest of this entry »
Prize-winning former reporter for the New York Times, explains why Americans’ trust in the news media has fallen, and why that matters.
One of the world’s most celebrated cosmologists stretched the fabric of China’s social-media universe with a simple greeting on Tuesday.
“Greetings to my friends in China! It has been too long!” celebrated black-hole theorizer Stephen Hawking wrote in an inaugural, bilingual post on Chinese social media platform Weibo. “I hope to tell you more about my life and work through this page and also to learn from you in reply.”
The response was, well, astronomical.
The account amassed more than a million followers in its first six hours. In that time, Mr. Hawking’s first message was…(read more)
Source: China Real Time Report – WSJ
After two decades of failed attempts to track such visitors, some officials call the visa program a critical national security weakness.
WASHINGTON — Ron Nixon writes: The question from the congressman to the Obama administration official was straightforward enough: How many foreign visitors overstay their visas every year?
The reply was simple too, but not in a satisfying way. “We don’t know,” the official said.
The testy exchange during a recent congressional hearing between Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina, and Alan Bersin, the assistant secretary for international affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, highlights what some law enforcement officials call a critical weakness in the United States foreign visa program.
The issue has taken on added urgency as part of a broader examination of immigration policy following the mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 people dead and 22 wounded. Tashfeen Malik, one of the attackers, was granted entry to the United States under a K-1 visa, also known as a fiancé visa. Her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, was an American-born citizen. Both died in a shootout with the police. While Ms. Malik did not overstay her visa, the attack added to fears that a terrorist could exploit gaps in the system.
Nearly 20 years ago, Congress passed a law requiring the federal government to develop a system to track people who overstayed their visas. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an entry and exit tracking system was seen as a vital national security and counterterrorism tool, and the 9/11 Commission recommended that the Department of Homeland Security complete a system “as soon as possible.” Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers, Satam al-Suqami and Nawaf al-Hazmi, had overstayed their visas.
Since then, the federal government has spent millions of dollars on the effort, yet officials can only roughly estimate the number of people in the United States illegally after overstaying visas.
Officials blame a lack of technology to conduct more advanced collection of data like iris scans, resistance from the airline and tourism industries because of cost, and questions about the usefulness of tracking people exiting the country as a counterterrorism measure.
Some experts also note that a sizable number of those who overstayed their visas are highly skilled workers who come under the H-1B program or are foreign students.
One widely cited statistic, from a 1997 report by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, puts the number of people who overstay their visas at 40 percent — which now would mean about 4.4 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the United States. Numerous lawmakers, including the Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, have used that figure when trying to describe the scope of the problem. But even that number has never been conclusively substantiated.
Federal agencies have not provided a new report to Congress on overstays since 1994, despite the congressional mandate. Read the rest of this entry »
Should the Department of Homeland Security respect online privacy, even if terrorists are behind it? How did these ISIS sympathizers involved in the San Bernardino massacre pass visa screenings? Should immigration check social media before granting visas?
Damage Control at MSNBC: ‘We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review’Posted: December 4, 2015 | |
“We regret that we briefly showed images of photographs and identification cards that should not have been aired without review,” the network said in a statement given to the Washington Examiner….
Josh Feldman reports:
Right after MSNBC, CNN, and other networks got news crews inside the home of the San Bernardino attackers, two CNN analysts absolutely tore into law enforcement for allowing it to happen.
MSNBC and CNN toured through the entire place, and MSNBC ended up broadcasting some personal details about the attackers that weren’t blurred out on live TV.
CNN legal analyst Paul Callan reacted to the media being allowed in by saying, “I think this indicates a shocking degree of negligence and, really, recklessness by law enforcement authorities here.” He said there could have easily been another suspect, and if there is, the crime scene is “contaminated” now.
CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Gilliam called this “the biggest visible screw-up in investigative history that I think has ever occurred.”…(read more)
NBC, the parent network of MSNBC, along with other media outlets, gained access to the home of the married couple who shot up a health center in San Bernardino this week.
Oh yuck, my MSNBC tweet attracted right wingers. No, go away! MSNBC is still 100,000,000 times better than Fox.
— Brandon Marcus (@MrBrandonMarcus) December 4, 2015
While rummaging on live TV throughout the house, NBC reporter Kerry Sanders and his cameraman showed images that appeared to reveal the identity of people related to the shooters, including the photo of a young child. The shooters, who were killed in a stand off with police, were the parents of a six-month-old girl.
John Nolte reports:
One of the most bizarre and possibly irresponsible and craven scenes in media history just unfurled on MSNBC and CNN as reporters from both networks (and a handful of others), during a live broadcast, toured the apartment of the San Bernardino Islamic terrorists. While a MSNBC reporter rummaged through the deceased terrorists’ closets and boxes and photo albums, Andrea Mitchell reassured viewers that the disturbing scene was okay. “The landlord told us authorities were done with the crime scene,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »
MCALLEN, Texas — Ildefonso Ortiz reports: Mexican authorities arrested a top female drug lord wanted in the United States for bribing federal officers. The female drug trafficker. known for her glamorous photographs on social media, was a common sight in this border city and in the Mexican cities of Reynosa and Miguel Aleman.
Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) announced this week the arrest of 38-year-old Ana Marie Hernandez better known as “La Muneca” at the request of the Interpol and the U.S. Marshals Service, information provided to Breitbart Texas revealed.
Hernandez was recently caught after a lengthy series of surveillance operation in order to track her down, according to the PGR, she is currently in a Mexican prison where she will undergo and extradition process.Court records obtained by Breitbart Texas reveal that Hernandez had been on the run for a few years after she pleaded
guilty to drug conspiracy charges and bribery in El Paso….(read more)
And watch this:
It was a highlight of our week here at Pundit Planet.
KELLY: Charles Koch, thank you.
KOCH: Well, thank you, Megyn. I appreciate it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: Getting lots of feedback online with Charles Koch, like this one, quote, “Such a disappointing lack of evilness! Imagine that.”
Thanks for watching. This is “The Kelly File.”
Do the Koch brothers have critics with legitimate complaints? Interests groups that object to the various causes the Koch brothers, with their considerable resources, advocate? Of course they do. But perhaps because they don’t seek the limelight, they’re referred to as “shadowy figures”, and attacked relentlessly from the highest public offices in the United States, including the Senate floor, and the Presidency itself.
Private citizens, using their wealth, and right to free speech, to advocate causes they believe in (causes that up until recently, were embraced as mainstream values in America) are routinely smeared by opponents, and treated as the most evil, corrosive influence in modern politics. Do the Kochs deserve to be characterized by their opponents as pure Evil? The idea is laughable.
“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian. If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs.”
A woman who claimed to have a grandmother inside a writing class in Snyder Hall, where a portion the massacre unfolded, described the scene in a tweet.
“The shooter was lining people up and asking if they were Christian,” she wrote. “If they said yes, then they were shot in the head. If they said no, or didn’t answer, they were shot in the legs. My grandma just got to my house, and she was in the room. She wasn’t shot, but she is very upset.
The Twitter user then recalled how her grandmother attempted to save the life of one of her close classmates.
Two women wait outside Umpqua Community College campus after a shooting.Photo: AP
“She tried to perform CPR on her friend, but it was too late,” the woman said. “I hope nothing like this ever happens again.”
Kortney Moore, an 18-year-old student at Umpqua Community College who was also in the room, told Oregon’s News Review that the shooter was indeed on the hunt for Christians.
Moments after hearing a bullet come flying through a window, she said the 20-year-old shooter made his way inside and targeted their teacher, pumping a single round into their head. Read the rest of this entry »
Censorship rates on Weibo up tenfold after the Tianjin blast
Eva Dou reports: The Tianjin warehouse explosion has horrified and gripped China’s netizens, with the topic racking up more views on social network Weibo than the country’s total population of nearly 1.4 billion.
It’s also sent the country’s Internet censors scrambling to make sure online discussion stays within approved confines.
Censorship rates on Weibo were up tenfold after the Tianjin blast compared to earlier in the month, said King-wa Fu, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school who built censorship tracker Weiboscope.
The topic “Tianjin Tanggu Explosion” has more pageviews on Weibo than the number of people in China. 1.68 bln vs 1.36 bln
— Eva Dou (@evadou) August 14, 2015
Censorship of traditional and social media is common in China after disasters and has actually been looser this time than in some other recent tragedies. Whereas China’s local newspapers turned into clones after the capsizing of a ship on the Yangtze River in June, Chinese media reports on the explosion in Tianjin’s Tanggu district have been more varied. Discussion of the topic has also been widespread on social media.
But some online comments go too far, such as those that criticize the government’s response or discuss the chemicals inside the warehouse, which officials say they have not yet been able to identify. Those types of postings have been scrubbed, according to Weiboscope and another censorship-tracking site, Free Weibo. Read the rest of this entry »
The Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications mentioned the videos in its notice and declared that they are ‘having an extremely bad impact on society’.
Felicia Sonmez reports: Chinese authorities are striking back after a string of high-profile incidents involving explicit homemade videos, according to a notice by the country’s antipornography office.
“So-called ‘indecent videos’ are harming social virtue, promoting pornography, severely disturbing order on the Internet and trampling on the moral and legal bottom line,” reads the notice, which was posted Thursday on the website of China’s National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.
Last month, a clip of a couple having sex in a Uniqlo dressing room went viral on the Chinese Internet, in an episode that inspired scores of online parodies and prompted thousands of couples to take selfies outside of the downtown Beijing store where the incident took place. Four people have been detained in connection with the video.
Since the Uniqlo incident, several other risqué videos have found their way to the Chinese public eye. In one case, a clip made by several people in Shengzhou in coastal Zhejiang province after a night out at a karaoke parlor went viral online late last month. Read the rest of this entry »
While some people joked about the defeat of the mighty Spartans, others took the incident seriously, citing safety issues. They were hired to promote salad by a food store.
A group of half-naked foreigners dressed as Spartan warriors made a mighty debut in Beijing on Wednesday, but soon lost their first battle against the police.
They showed up in some of the busiest areas in east Beijing around the afternoon, including Guomao and Sanlitun, drawing large crowds of admirers taking snaps.
They were hired to promote salad by a food store, according to Beijing Youth Daily.
However the fun ended when police arrived at the scene. Officers asked them to leave after the half-naked men started to cause “disorder,” according to Beijing Youth Daily. The report said they were forcibly detained after that request was ignored.
There is no information yet on whether those detained have been released or what charges the models might face. But according to a statement released by the food store on Thursday, they have already “cleared the air” with the police.
Photos of the scene soon went viral on Chinese social platforms. While some people joked about the defeat of the mighty Spartans, others took the incident seriously, citing safety issues. Read the rest of this entry »
King George III (1738-1820), Reigned 1760-1820
Ashe Schow writes: Not content to redefine consent to mean asking permission before every step of the sexual process, California is now on the path to teaching high school students the proper way to have sex — because human nature is now wrong.
“The ‘yes means yes’ law effectively defines every sexual encounter as rape unless you follow the law’s specific requirements — or unless neither party turns the other in to police.”
To recap: Last year California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law aiming to redefine consent as an “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement,” that is “ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” Saying “no” to unwanted sexual contact was no longer necessary, as a “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.” Also, previous sexual history “should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.” Alcohol also negates consent, since the line between “intoxicated” and “incapacitated” can be decided after the fact by an accuser.
“Now de Leon is moving on to round two: Teaching high school students the “correct” way to have sex. Human nature is no longer the correct way. De Leon knows the correct way — and it involves a lot of questions.”
This means that every time two college students have sex they have to act like they’ve never met before and ask for approval for everything from the first kiss and touch through intercourse. I tried multiple times to ask the sponsor of the California bill, State Sen. Kevin de Leon, how someone could prove they obtained consent under his law, but only received press releases and quoted paragraphs from the bill. When asked to clarify how one would prove they had obtained consent, his spokeswoman didn’t respond. Read the rest of this entry »
MIT Technology Review: Some Companies See Virtual and Augmented Reality as a Way to Make Money from a New Type of AdPosted: March 22, 2015 | |
Jon Gabriel: ‘I suppose I could categorize my friends by ethnicity, but the thought makes my skin crawl. They’re friends, not racial statistics’Posted: March 21, 2015 | |
The Broader Problem with Starbucks’ Racialism
Jon Gabriel writes: In an effort to solve America’s race issues once and for all, Starbucks is offering a discussion guide named “Your Race Relations Reality Check.” The document is featured to the right. This is not a Photoshop. This is real. One of the biggest companies on Earth thought this was A Good Idea.
“I’ve grown accustomed to the hand-wringing of rich white liberals, the smug preachiness of corporations, and the intrusion of politics into everyday life. But this ‘Reality Check’ revealed something deeper.”
Starbucks asks how many of your friends are of a different race and how that compares to your parents’ and kids’ racial quotas. They want to know the racial makeup of your neighborhood, workplace and Facebook stream. Have you let people of other races into your home? Have you entered theirs? And why didn’t you keep up with that childhood friend of a different race?
“I can’t even answer the Starbucks questionnaire. I have no idea the races of my parents’ or kids’ friends and even if I did, why would it matter? I suppose I could categorize my friends by ethnicity, but the thought makes my skin crawl. They’re friends, not racial statistics.”
For the past few days, I’ve tried to identify what most bugs me about this Starbucks stunt. I’ve grown accustomed to the hand-wringing of rich white liberals, the smug preachiness of corporations, and the intrusion of politics into everyday life. But this “Reality Check” revealed something deeper.
Let me veer onto a tangent; I’ll get back to the point in a minute. Starting with my first job out of college, I’ve had to mingle at trade shows, launch parties and corporate events where I was ordered to chat up complete strangers. I’m an introvert, so this was almost a fate worse than death. I’m some punk kid and they’re middle-aged bankers and software developers — what on earth am I supposed to talk about?
“This reveals one of my fundamental issues with the progressive mindset: they are obsessed with dividing Americans into discrete, controllable categories.”
So I came up with a conversation hack to sidestep my inner wallflower. I needed them to tell me something — anything — we might have in common. It would go like this:
“Where is your office located?”
“So, what’s going on with those Huskers? Could be an interesting year…”
Then I’d shut up and nod for 10 minutes.
In that first job, most of the guests were male and often from rural areas, so I would just mention the name of the nearest college and let them educate me on the sports there. Read the rest of this entry »
“The suicide of the west in one opening sentence. Amazing.”
[VIDEO] From His Bathroom, Shirtless ‘Minecraft’ Game Critic Offers Important Commentary About #Ferguson Cop ShootingPosted: March 12, 2015 | |
‘My name is Stephen Henry Richards, and I’m here to inform you that two police officers have been shot, in Ferguson Missouri, due to the violent video game named ‘Minecraft’. Minecraft is teaching young youth violence by shooting, stabbing, PVP, that’s player versus player, and now it’s getting out on the streets.”
Stephen Henry Richards continues,
“These unfortune-nate incidences, where people who are trying to protect us and uphold the law are being shot, by children, and young adults, because they’re coming up to them unsuspected, unaware, and now we have this shooting of two police officers in this United States town of Ferguson Missouri.”
Stephen concludes with an invitation to subscribe to his channel.
“I’m Stephen Henry Richards, and I’ll be back soon to talk about this unfortunate incident, please give me thumbs up to the video, not to what happened, please subscribe, and let me know what you want me to talk about.”
— WSJ Asia (@WSJAsia) February 6, 2015
Pope Francis wants families to know that technology isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.
“By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it,” the Pontiff said Friday in his annual message for World Communications Day.
In other words, cut down on your screen time, kids.
Not that mothers and fathers aren’t beyond reproach: “Parents are the primary educators,” he said, “but they cannot be left to their own devices.”
“The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that ‘silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist,'” Pope Francis said.
This isn’t the first time the Pope has implied those…
View original post 103 more words
Mainland regulators say people will be able to have nicknames – they will just have to register them with website administrators first
Li Jing reports: Online real-name registration will be ramped up on the mainland this year to cover instant messaging services, Twitter-like microblogs, online forums and other websites as the Communist Party continues to tighten its grip on cyberspace.
“The authorities need to make it clear to the public what laws and regulations they’re following to implement such a registration system, and answer the question of whether they’re in conflict with the constitution that promises the right to ‘freedom of speech’.”
The Cyberspace Administration did not give details on how the plan would be carried out, but administration official Xu Feng said yesterday the agency would “comprehensively” implement the rule and “beef up” oversight to punish violators.
Xu said website users would still be allowed to use a nickname online, but they would have to register their real identities with website administrators.
Real-name registration would also apply to open online forums called tieba, Xu said, without elaborating.
“Some Weibo users complained the move would lead to more self-censorship, while others people were worried about leaks of personal data.”
Authorities have in the past ordered users to register with their real names for some services, but the rules were not always followed.
In Beijing, for example, all users of social media platforms operated in the capital, including the Sina Weibo microblog service, were supposed to register their names and identity numbers in 2011 as part of a push to rein in online rumour-mongering and “cleanse” content.
But a year later it was still possible to use the Sina service without doing so.
Sina admitted publicly it had failed to fully implement the regulation in 2012 because it was time-consuming and eroding its user base.
Zhan Jiang, a professor of international journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the administration was obviously trying to extend that rule nationwide and with wider targets, as the top leadership had repeatedly stressed “internet governance”. Read the rest of this entry »
Devon Maloney writes: This year was, to put it as gently as possible, the devil’s playground. Oh sure, every year has its horrors and there are far worse annums behind us (the Crusades, anyone?), but 2014 proved to be a year in which long-festering social, environmental, and political problems were exposed in ways we have not seen in a very long time.
Thank social media, or globalization, or perhaps the recent explosion of hyper-accessible dystopian entertainment (though that is something of a chicken/egg scenario), but no single year in recent memory has so closely resembled the exaggerated conditions employed as metaphorical warnings in dystopian sci-fi. In fact, a lot of dystopian fiction we saw this year is at the very least on par with everyday realities, if not tame by comparison.
Around the world, instances of palpable, immediate environmental catastrophe and brazen, systematic oppression proliferated at a terrifying rate, which underscores a position we and others have taken of late: With such nightmares growing more real each day, where does dystopian fiction end and reality begin? Read the rest of this entry »
— Elliott Schwartz (@elliosch) December 4, 2014
White House sent *SEVENTY ONE* emails touting Gruber’s work – a lot of emails for a guy Obama dismisses as a nobody. pic.twitter.com/uR7eTfUCUZ
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) November 17, 2014
“The fact that some adviser who never worked on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is no reflection on the actual process that was run.”
Jonathan Gruber + MIT + Individual Mandate + Congressional Budget Office + National Review = Adolf Hitler?Posted: November 16, 2014 | |
If you’re a WordPress blogger and post something critical of the Obama Administration and Health Care legislation, do you ever find unrelated content suggestions promoting creepy or offensive content leaking into the Content Recommendations panel? Either this is innocently absurd (benefit of the doubt) or legitimate Op-Ed criticism is being suspiciously herded into a category that triggers “kooky conspiracy theory” suggestions.
Read this post and see if there’s anything that could possibly fit with “Adolf Hitler”, or “Barack Obama Citizenship conspiracy theories”. Didn’t find anything related to Obama’s citizenship? Didn’t find anything related to Adolf Hitler? Exactly. Me neither.
The above screen cap records the list of suggestions offered in the content recommendations tags list when I prepared this post. A short post with only 88 words. If any one of the 88 words in that post is related in any way to these obnoxious suggestions (Hitler? Really?) I fail to see a connection.
One episode does not make a pattern, so there are no conclusions to draw here. But if any other WordPress bloggers find similar nonsense appearing in content suggestions, please, make a screen cap, and post it.