Serena tops Sharapova as world’s highest paid sportswoman

LOS ANGELES: Two days after her stunning loss to Garbine Muguruza in the French Open final, Serena Williams scored a different win on Monday, when Forbes Magazine reported she has overtaken Maria Sharapova as the world’s highest-paid sportswoman.

Serena earned $28.9 million over the past 12 months, the financial magazine reported in an article posted on its website.

Russian tennis star Sharapova had held the title for the past 11 years.

Serena has dominated her sport for more than a decade. She won her second Grand Slam in 2002 before going on to win 19 more since then.

After falling at Roland Garros on Saturday, she vowed to keep trying to equal Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles.

Serena’s career prize money of $77.6 million amounts to more than twice as much as any other sportswoman’s.

However, Sharapova dominated in endorsement profits before companies including Nike, American Express, Porsche and TAG Heuer distanced themselves after she tested positive for the recently banned drug meldonium earlier this year.

Sharapova earned $21.9 million over the past 12 months, down almost $8 million from the previous year, Forbes said.

American mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey was third on the list with $14 million, just ahead of NASCAR stock car driver Danica Patrick, who earned $13.9 million.

Spinning science news: How the FDA keeps manipulating the media

This article was originally published by Scientific American.

Scientific American It was a faustian bargain — and it certainly made editors at National Public Radio squirm.

The deal was this: NPR, along with a select group of media outlets, would get a briefing about an upcoming announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration a day before anyone else. But in exchange for the scoop, NPR would have to abandon its reportorial independence. The FDA would dictate whom NPR’s reporter could and couldn’t interview.

“My editors are uncomfortable with the condition that we cannot seek reaction,” NPR reporter Rob Stein wrote back to the government officials offering the deal. Stein asked for a little bit of leeway to do some independent reporting but was turned down flat. Take the deal or leave it.

NPR took the deal. “I’ll be at the briefing,” Stein wrote.

Later that day in April 2014, Stein — along with reporters from more than a dozen other top-tier media organizations, including CBS, NBC, CNN, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times — showed up at a federal building to get his reward. Every single journalist present had agreed not to ask any questions of sources not approved by the government until given the go-ahead.

“I think embargoes that attempt to control sourcing are dangerous because they limit the role of the reporter whose job it is to do a full look at a subject,” says New York Times former public editor Margaret Sullivan. “It’s really inappropriate for a source to be telling a journalist whom he or she can and can’t talk to.” Ivan Oransky, distinguished writer in residence at New York University’s Journalism Institute and founder of the Embargo Watch weblog, agrees: “I think it’s deeply wrong.”

This kind of deal offered by the FDA — known as a close-hold embargo — is an increasingly important tool used by scientific and government agencies to control the behavior of the science press. Or so it seems. It is impossible to tell for sure because it is happening almost entirely behind the scenes. We only know about the FDA deal because of a wayward sentence inserted by an editor at The New York Times. But for that breach of secrecy, nobody outside the small clique of government officials and trusted reporters would have known that the journalists covering the agency had given up their right to do independent reporting.

Documents obtained by Scientific American through Freedom of Information Act requests now paint a disturbing picture of the tactics that are used to control the science press. For example, the FDA assures the public that it is committed to transparency, but the documents show that, privately, the agency denies many reporters access — including ones from major outlets such as Fox News — and even deceives them with half-truths to handicap them in their pursuit of a story. At the same time, the FDA cultivates a coterie of journalists whom it keeps in line with threats. And the agency has made it a practice to demand total control over whom reporters can and can’t talk to until after the news has broken, deaf to protests by journalistic associations and media ethicists and in violation of its own written policies.

By using close-hold embargoes and other methods, the FDA, like other sources of scientific information, are gaining control of journalists who are supposed to keep an eye on those institutions. The watchdogs are being turned into lapdogs. “Journalists have ceded the power to the scientific establishment,” says Vincent Kiernan, a science journalist and dean at George Mason University. “I think it’s interesting and somewhat inexplicable, knowing journalists in general as being people who don’t like ceding power.”

The press corps is primed for manipulation by a convention that goes back decades: the embargo. The embargo is a back-room deal between journalists and the people they cover — their sources. A source grants the journalist access on condition that he or she cannot publish before an agreed-on date and time.

A surprisingly large proportion of science and health stories are the product of embargoes. Most of the major science journals offer reporters advance copies of upcoming articles — and the contact information of the authors — in return for agreeing not to run with the story until the embargo expires. These embargoes set the weekly rhythm of science coverage: On Monday afternoon, you may see a bunch of stories about the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA published almost simultaneously. Tuesday, it’s the Journal of the American Medical Association. On Wednesday, it’s Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine. Science stories appear on Thursday. Other institutions have also adopted the embargo system. Federal institutions, especially the ones science and health journalists report on, have as well. Embargoes are the reason that stories about the National Laboratories, the National Institutes of Health and other organizations often tend to break at the precisely same time.

Embargoes were first embraced by science reporters in the 1920s, in part because they take the pressure off. After all, when everybody agrees to publish their stories simultaneously, a reporter can spend extra time researching and writing a story without fear of being scooped. “[Embargoes] were created at the behest of journalists,” says Kiernan, who has written a book, “Embargoed Science,” about scientific embargoes. “Scientists had to be convinced to go along.” But scientific institutions soon realized that embargoes could be used to manipulate the timing and, to a lesser extent, the nature of press coverage. The result is a system whereby scientific institutions increasingly control the press corps. “They’ve gotten the upper hand in this relationship, and journalists have never taken it back,” Kiernan says.

The embargo system is such an established institution in science journalism that few reporters complain or even think about its darker implications, at least until they themselves feel slighted. This January the California Institute of Technology was sitting on a great story: researchers there had evidence of a new giant planet — Planet Nine — in the outer reaches of our solar system. The Caltech press office decided to give only a dozen reporters, including Scientific American’s Michael Lemonick, early access to the scientists and their study. When the news broke, the rest of the scientific journalism community was left scrambling. “Apart from the chosen 12, those working to news deadlines were denied the opportunity to speak to the researchers, obtain independent viewpoints or have time to properly digest the published research paper,” complained BBC reporter Pallab Ghosh about Caltech’s “inappropriate” favoritism in an open letter to the World Federation of Science Journalists.

When asked about why Caltech chose to release the news only to a select group of reporters, Farnaz Khadem, Caltech’s head of communications, stated that she is committed to being “fair and transparent” about how and when Caltech shares news with journalists. She then refused to talk about the Planet Nine incident or embargoes or press strategy, and she would not grant access to anyone at Caltech who might talk about such matters. As a consequence, it is hard to know for certain why Caltech decided to share the news with only a select group of reporters. But it is not hard to guess why journalists such as Ghosh were excluded. “It wasn’t that they were not good enough or not liked enough,” Kiernan speculates. “There was a real effort here to control things, making sure that the elite of the elite covered this story and covered it in a certain way, which would then shape the coverage of all other journalists. It’s very clearly a control effort.”

Caltech is not the only institution that steers coverage by briefing a very small subset of reporters. (As I was writing this piece, I received a note from a U.S. Air Force press officer offering a sneak preview of video footage being offered to “a select number of digital publications.”) For years the FDA has been cultivating a small group of journalists who are entrusted with advance notice of certain events while others are left out in the cold. But it was not the game of favorites that ignited a minor firestorm in the journalism community in January 2011 — it was the introduction of the close-hold embargo.

Like a regular embargo, a close-hold embargo allows early access to information provided that attendees not publish before a set date and time. In this case, it was a sneak peek at rules about to be published regarding medical devices. But there was an additional condition: reporters were expressly forbidden from seeking outside comment. Journalists would have to give up any semblance of being able to do independent reporting on the matter before the embargo expired.

Even reporters who had been dealing with the FDA for years were incredulous. When one asked the agency’s press office if it really was forbidding communications with outside sources, Karen Riley, an official at the FDA, erased all doubt. “It goes without saying that the embargo means YOU CANNOT call around and get comment ahead of the 1 P.M. embargo,” she said in an e-mail.

“Actually it does need some saying, since this is a new version of a journalistic embargo,” wrote Oransky in his Embargo Watch blog. Without the ability to contact independent sources, he continued, “journalists become stenographers.” Kiernan echoes the sentiment: “[When] you can’t verify the information, you can’t get comment on the information. You have to just keep it among this group of people that I told you about, and you can’t use it elsewhere. In that situation, the journalist is allowing his or her reporting hands to be tied in a way that they’re not going to be anything, ultimately, other than a stenographer.”

The Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ), of which I am a member, publicly objected to the close-hold embargo, noting that it “will be a serious obstacle to good journalism. Reporters who want to be competitive on a story will essentially have to agree to write only what the FDA wants to tell the world, without analysis or outside commentary.” Faced by this opposition, the agency quickly backtracked. After a meeting with AHCJ leaders, Meghan Scott, then the agency’s acting associate commissioner for external affairs, wrote: “Prior to your inquiry, the FDA did not have a formal news embargo policy in place.” The FDA was now establishing new ground rules that “will better serve the media and the public.”

Initially published online in June 2011, the FDA’s new media policy officially killed the close-hold embargo: “A journalist may share embargoed material provided by the FDA with non-journalists or third parties to obtain quotes or opinions prior to an embargo lift provided that the reporter secures agreement from the third party to uphold the embargo.” Due diligence would always be allowed, at least at the FDA.

Health and science journalists breathed a sigh of relief. The AHCJ expressed gratitude that the FDA had changed its tune, and Oransky’s Embargo Watch congratulated the agency for backing down: “For doing the right thing, the FDA has earned a spot on the Embargo Watch Honor Roll. Kudos.” And the FDA had cleared up the misunderstanding and affirmed that it was committed to “a culture of openness in its interaction with the news media and the public.”

In reality, there was no misunderstanding. The close-hold embargo had become part of the agency’s media strategy. It was here to stay — policy or no policy.

It is hard to tell when a close-hold embargo is afoot because, by its very nature, it is a secret that neither the reporters who have been given special access nor the scientific institution that sets up the deal wants to be revealed. The public hears about it only when a journalist chooses to reveal the information.

We have a few rare instances where journalists revealed that close-hold embargoes were being used by scientists and scientific institutions after 2011. In 2012 biologist Gilles-Eric Séralini and his colleagues published a dubious — later retracted and then republished — paper purportedly linking genetically modified foods to cancer in rats. They gave reporters early access under a close-hold embargo, quite likely to hamstring the reporters’ ability to explore gaping holes in the article, a situation science journalist Carl Zimmer described as “a rancid, corrupt way to report about science.” In 2014 the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (also called the CSB) released a report to journalists under a close-hold embargo. When challenged, the then managing director of the CSB, Daniel Horowitz, told Oransky’s Embargo Watch that the close-hold embargo was used “on the theory that this would provide a more orderly process.” He then stated that the board was going to “drop the policy in its entirety for future reports.” Privately, however, a CSB public affairs specialist noted in an e-mail, “Frankly, I wish we did have more stenographers out there. Government agencies trying to control the information flow is an old story, but the other side of the story is that government agencies that do good work often have a difficult time getting their story told in an era of journalistic skepticism and partisan bickering and bureaucratic infighting.”

Also in 2014 the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) used a close-hold embargo when it announced to a dozen reporters that researchers had discovered subtle signals of gravitational waves from the early universe. “You could only talk to other scientists who had seen the papers already; we didn’t want them shared unduly,” says Christine Pulliam, the media relations manager for CfA. Unfortunately, the list of approved scientists provided by CfA listed only theoreticians, not experimentalists — and only an experimentalist was likely to see the flaw that doomed the study. (The team was seeing the signature of cosmic dust, not gravitational waves.) “I felt like a fool, in retrospect,” says Lemonick, who, as one of a dozen or so chosen journalists, covered the story for Time (at the time, he was not on the staff of Scientific American).

The FDA, too, quietly held close-hold embargoed briefings, even though its official media policy forbids it. Without a source willing to talk, it is impossible to tell for sure when or why FDA started violating its own rules. A document from January 2014, however, describes the FDA’s strategy for getting media coverage of the launch of a new public health ad campaign. It lays out a plan for the agency to host a “media briefing for select, top-tier reporters who will have a major influence on coverage and public opinion of the campaigns …; Media who attend the briefing will be instructed that there is a strict, close-hold embargo that does not allow for contact with those outside of the FDA for comment on the campaign.”

Why? The document gives a glimpse: “Media coverage of the campaign is guaranteed; however, we want to ensure outlets provide quality coverage of the launch,” the document explains. “The media briefing will give us an opportunity to shape the news stories, conduct embargoed interviews with the major outlets ahead of the launch and give media outlets opportunities to prepare more in-depth coverage of the campaign launch.”

Ten reporters — from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Associated Press, Reuters, ABC, NBC, CNN and NPR — were invited to have their stories shaped. The day after the briefing, on February 4, everybody — except for The New York Times — ran with stories about the ad campaign. Independent comment was notably missing. Only NPR, which went live hours after the others, and CNN, in an update to its story midday, managed to get any reaction from anyone outside of the FDA. CBS plunked down an out-of-context quotation from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, probably in hopes that readers wouldn’t notice that it was two months old. Nobody else seems to have tried to get anyone who could critique the ad campaign.

The result was a set of stories almost uniformly cleaving to the FDA’s party line, without a hint of a question about whether the ad campaign would be as ineffective as many other such campaigns. Not one of the media outlets said anything about the close-hold embargo. From the agency’s point of view, it was mission accomplished.

The FDA had a much harder task two months later. The agency was about to make public controversial new rules about electronic cigarettes. It was nearly impossible to keep the story from leaking out ahead of time; days before the new rules were going to be published in April 2014, rumors were flying. Reporters around the country could smell the story and began to e-mail the FDA’s press office with questions about the e-cigarette rules. The agency flacks would have to use all the powers at their disposal to control the flow of information.

“I’ve heard a number of rumors that the FDA will be releasing its proposed e-cigarette regulations on Monday,” Clara Ritger, then a reporter with the National Journal asked on Friday, April 18. “I wanted to see if I could confirm that? If that’s not accurate, do you have a timeline?” Stephanie Yao, then an FDA press officer, dodged the question: “The proposal is still in draft form and under review. As a matter of policy, the FDA does not share draft rules with outside groups while a rule is still under review.”

The fencing match was on. “Thank you for following up with the statement,” Ritger responded. “While I know the proposal is still in draft form and under review, for my planning purposes I wanted to find out when the proposed regulations will be coming out?”

“Have you subscribed to FDA press announcements?” Jenny Haliski, then another FDA press officer, wrote back on Monday. “The proposed rule itself will be published in the Federal Register.”

“Thanks for sending! I signed up,” Ritger responded. “The only other question I had was when the proposed regulations would come out, off the record, for planning purposes?”

Not even an offer of being off the record could get the agency to spill the beans. “The FDA can’t speculate on the timing of the proposed rule,” Haliski replied.

But this was a carefully crafted half-truth. There was no need to speculate. Haliski and others in the press office knew quite well not just that the rule was going to be published on Thursday, April 24, but also that there was going to be a close-hold embargoed briefing on Wednesday. It’s just that Ritger and the National Journal weren’t invited.

The invite list had been drafted days earlier, and, as usual, the briefing was limited to trusted journalists: the same outlets from the ad campaign briefing in February, with the addition of a few more, which included the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, Politico and the Congressional Quarterly. At the very same moment that the agency was discussing the embargoed briefing with some of their chosen reporters, anyone outside that small circle, like Ritger, was being thrown off the trail. Not even Fox News was allowed in.

Some within the FDA press office wondered why Fox was excluded, unlike the other major networks. “BTW, we noticed that Fox still wasn’t on the invite list,” Raquel Ortiz, then an FDA press officer, told Haliski.

“I have no national Fox reporter who had contacted me on this topic,” Haliski responded. “All reporters invited to the briefing needed to have covered tobacco regulatory issues before.”

Ortiz realized that this wasn’t an honest answer: “But they definitely cover FDA/CTP [Center for Tobacco Products] and tobacco stories — [a colleague has] seen them.”

“We don’t have a good contact for Fox,” Haliski insisted, rather lamely. A contact would not have been hard to find had they bothered to look. And, as chance would have it, the contact found them. Early the next morning, with plenty of time before the briefing, Fox’s senior national correspondent — John Roberts, one-time heir apparent to Dan Rather — contacted Haliski asking for access. “I’m aware that the FDA will likely come out with its deeming rule regarding e-cigarettes in the next week or so. I’d like to have a story ready to go for the day (holding to any embargo),” he wrote. “Can we make that happen?”

“Hi, John, Have you subscribed to FDA press announcements?” Access denied.

“I was particularly troubled by it because I was the medical correspondent for CBS Evening News for a couple of years, and I had a very good relationship with the FDA and everybody there,” says Roberts, who found out he was excluded after the other correspondents’ stories came out. “I was told by these folks that Fox news wasn’t invited because of ‘past experiences with Fox.’”

A little after noon on Wednesday, April 23, the briefing went on as scheduled. All the reporters present understood the terms, as announced: “As discussed, under this embargo you will not be able to reach out to third parties for comment on this announcement. We are providing you with a preview of the information with this understanding.” But by 2:30 P.M., the close-hold embargo was already fraying at the edges. FDA officials apparently got wind that a reporter was trying to talk to a member of Congress about the new rules. Even though it was not clear that this was a breach of the embargo — the interview was scheduled for after the embargo expired, and the reporter presumably did not share any crucial information ahead of time — it was bending the close-hold rules, and the FDA was livid. Within half an hour, FDA’s Jefferson had fired off an angry e-mail to the close-hold journalists.

“It has been brought to our attention that there has already been a break in the embargo …; Third-party outreach of any kind was and is not permitted for this announcement. Everyone who participated agreed to this,” she wrote. “Moving forward, we will no longer consider embargoed briefings for news media if reporters are not willing to abide by the terms an embargo …; We take this matter very seriously, and as a consequence any individuals who violated the embargo will be excluded from future embargoed briefings with the agency.” Violate the rules, even in spirit, and you’ll be left out in the cold with the rest.

The denials flew in. “This is very frustrating as someone who has consistently played by the rules and has covered CTP/FDA for years to be lumped in with a group of reporters that cannot respect your requests not to reach out to third parties,” insisted then AP reporter Michael Felberbaum. “I have of course always advocated that you work more closely with reporters like myself who clearly understand and cover this area consistently instead of reporters who are just assigned to handle on a whim.”

But despite the scare about a breach, the secrecy held. When the embargo expired and the early news stories went online, the FDA had little to complain about; the embargo had worked once again to shape coverage. Felberbaum’s piece, for example, quoted Margaret Hamburg, then head of the FDA, and Mitch Zeller, the head of the agency’s CTP, but nobody else. Even after he updated his piece later in the day to get some outside comments, there was little hint of how controversial the new rules were. Members of the tobacco industry were generally unhappy with increased federal regulation of their business, while antitobacco advocates tended to argue that the new regulations were far too weak and took way too long to promulgate. And there was no mention, in Felberbaum’s article, at least, that the agency had tried to regulate e-cigarettes several years earlier but was slapped down with a stinging rebuke from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. (When asked about his work for the AP, Felberbaum — who has since quit his job as a reporter to become an FDA press officer — said, “I’m not really sure whether I’m comfortable discussing that at this point.”)

Some of the other outlets, like NPR, injected a little more nuance into their pieces, despite the restrictions, by doing additional reporting after the embargo expired. (In a statement, NPR said that agreeing to the FDA’s conditions was not a violation of ethics guidelines and “in no way influenced which other voices or ideas were included in the coverage.”) Still, even those pieces did not stray far from the key messages that the agency wanted to get across. Again the FDA found little to complain about. Except for one little thing.

Of all the media outlets, The New York Times was the only one to mention the close-hold embargo: “FDA officials gave journalists an outline of the new rules on Wednesday but required that they not talk to industry or public health groups until after Thursday’s formal release of the document.” (“I felt like I wanted to be clear with readers,” Sabrina Tavernise, the author of the story, later told Sullivan, The New York Times’ public editor at the time. “Usually you would have reaction in a story like this, but in this case, there wasn’t going to be any.”)

The FDA was not pleased that the omertà had been broken. “I have to say while I generally reserve my editorial comments, I was a little surprised by the tone of your article and the swipe you took at the embargo in the paper — when after combing through the coverage no one else felt the need to do so in quite that way,” the FDA’s Jefferson upbraided Tavernise in an e-mail. “To be clear, this is me taking stuff personally when I know I shouldn’t, but I thought we had a better working relationship than this …; I never expect totally positive coverage as our policies are controversial and complex, but at least more neutral and slightly less editorialized. Simply put, bummer. Off to deal with a pissed Fox News reporter.”

Tavernise promptly apologized. “Geez, sorry about the embargo thing. Editors were asking why we didn’t get to see it so I was asked to put a line in to explain,” she wrote. (Tavernise declined to comment for this article; Celia Dugger, one of The New York Times editors who handled the piece, said via e-mail: “As to the decision to describe the conditions of the embargo in the story, Sabrina and I talked it over and agreed it was best to include them.”)

The FDA was not pleased that the secret of the close-hold embargo was out, and the excluded press was confused and angry. “In this particular instance, it struck me as very strange,” says Fox’s Roberts. “It was a government agency picking and choosing who it was going to talk to on a matter of public policy, and then the fact that I had a longstanding relationship with the FDA that, with this new administration, didn’t seem to matter.”

Oransky complained again on Embargo Watch about the FDA’s attempts to turn journalists “into stenographers.” Sullivan asked a few pointed questions of Jefferson, who, in Sullivan’s words, insisted that the FDA’s intent was “not to be manipulative but to give reporters early access to a complicated news development” and noted, in passing, that Tavernise had not objected to the terms of the close-hold embargo. But the damage was short-lived. Very little came of the complaints; Sullivan said that she would “like to see The Times push back — hard — against such restrictions in every instance and be prepared to walk away from the story if need be,” but there is no evidence of any substantial pushback by anyone.

The two-tiered system of outsiders and insiders that undergirds the close-hold policy is also still enforced. Major press outlets such as Scientific American and Agence France-Presse have written to the FDA to complain about being excluded but have not received any satisfaction from the agency. Months after the e-cigarette affair and following a different FDA story about food labeling that insiders had early access to, Time magazine complained about its lack of access to a select-press-only phone call. “Time was not included …; (they weren’t even on my radar to be honest with you), but we handled all their queries” the day after the call, then FDA press officer Jennifer Corbett Dooren wrote.

Absent any indications from the agency, it is anyone’s guess whether the close-hold embargo is still in use at the FDA and, if so, how frequently. Unfortunately, the FDA refused to answer any questions. Because I am suing the agency for access to documents about embargo practices at the FDA, the press office, in a statement that failed to answer any specific questions, said that news embargoes “allow reporters time to develop their articles on complex matters in an informed, accurate way” and that its use of embargoes conforms to relevant government guidelines and best practices. The press office referred all questions to the FDA’s Office of the Chief Counsel, which did not supply answers.

Since The New York Times slip, no journalist covering the agency has openly mentioned being subject to such restrictions. Scientific American made a significant effort to contact many of the reporters believed to have agreed to an FDA close-hold embargo — including the AP’s Felberbaum, The Times’ Tavernise, NPR’s Stein, and other reporters from Reuters, USA Today and the LA Times. None could shed any light on the issue. Some explicitly refused to speak to Scientific American; some failed to return queries; two had no recollection of having ever agreed to a close-hold embargo, including Tom Burton, a Pulitzer Prize–winning Wall Street Journal reporter and the only one willing to answer questions. “I didn’t remember it at all, and [even] after you told me, I didn’t remember,” he said. As far as he knows, Burton added, such embargoes are rare.

No matter how rare it might be, there is documentary evidence of its happening multiple times, and each instance since 2011 is a violation of the FDA’s official media policy, which explicitly bans close-hold embargoes. This policy still stands, just as it did before the last close-hold embargo. The smart money says that the agency’s unofficial policy still stands, too — and the favoritism and close-hold embargoes continue. It is apparently too sweet an arrangement for the FDA simply to walk away.

Despite the difficulty of measuring the use of close-hold embargoes, Oransky and Kiernan and other embargo observers agree that they — and other variations of the embargo used to tighten control over the press — appear to be on the rise. And they have been cropping up in other fields of journalism, such as business journalism as well. “More and more sources, including government sources but also corporate sources, are interested in controlling the message, and this is one of the ways they’re trying to do it,” says The New York Times’ Sullivan. “I think it should be resisted.”

As much blame as government and other institutions bear for attempting to control the press through such means, the primary responsibility lies with the journalists themselves. Even a close-hold embargo wouldn’t constrain a reporter without the reporter’s consent; the reporter can simply wait until the embargo expires and speak to outside sources, albeit at the cost of filing the story a little bit later.

Says Oransky: “We as journalists need to look inward a little bit and think about why all of us feel we absolutely have to publish something at embargo [expiration] when we don’t think we have the whole story?” Alas, Kiernan says, there isn’t any movement within the journalism community to change things: “I don’t know that journalists in general have taken a step back, [looking] from the 50,000-foot view to understand how their work is controlled and shaped by the embargo system.

Idiocracy now: Donald Trump and the Dunning-Kruger effect – when stupid people don’t know they are stupid

Donald Trump is a political brawler. He is also a raconteur, a self-styled maverick, a political “outsider,” an adult male adolescent and the drunk guy at the local bar who picks fights with strangers by yelling racial and ethnic slurs or harassing women.

As I watched Hillary Clinton pummel Donald Trump during Monday’s debate, it occurred to me that beyond being merely unprepared to be president of the United States — see also Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his inability to answer basic questions about international politics — that Trump is, in fact, supremely confident in his ignorance and sense of intellectual superiority over other people.

This is the psychological concept known as the “Dunning-Kruger” effect — put very simply, when stupid people don’t know that they are stupid — in action.

Writing for Pacific Standard, psychologist David Dunning explained it as:

In many areas of life, incompetent people do not recognize  —   scratch that, cannot recognize   —   just how incompetent they are, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Logic itself almost demands this lack of self-insight: For poor performers to recognize their ineptitude would require them to possess the very expertise they lack. To know how skilled or unskilled you are at using the rules of grammar, for instance, you must have a good working knowledge of those rules, an impossibility among the incompetent. Poor performers  —   and we are all poor performers at some things  —   fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack. What’s curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.

Sound familiar? Trump’s first presidential debate with Hillary Clinton was replete with examples of this phenomenon.

Trump believes that the United States could have defeated ISIS by stealing other Middle Eastern countries’ oil in the form of a bounty. Beyond being militarily impractical it is also a violation of international law.

As Trump has said:

“Or, as I’ve been saying for a long time, and I think you’ll agree, because I said it to you once, had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income. And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.”

Trump does not understand cyber warfare or espionage. Yet, he persists in making references to “400-pound” hackers sitting on their beds and his child’s skill with computers.

And Trump has also said:

“So we have to get very, very tough on cyber and cyber warfare. It is — it is a huge problem. I have a son. He’s 10 years old. He has computers. He is so good with these computers, it’s unbelievable. The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough. And maybe it’s hardly doable.”

Trump believes that China should invade North Korea in order to create more stability in the region. China is a sponsor of North Korea. Both countries are also armed with nuclear weapons.

The Republican presidential nominee has stated:

“I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table. Because you look at some of these countries, you look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea. And by the way, another one powerful is the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal. Iran is one of their biggest trading partners. Iran has power over North Korea. And when they made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea. And they should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places.”

Trump actually believes that Clinton, a former secretary of state and U.S. senator, lacks “basic ability” as compared to him, a man who has no experience in politics or public policy. This is a perfect example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

He has said:

“And she doesn’t say that, because she’s got no business ability. We need heart. We need a lot of things. But you have to have some basic ability. And sadly, she doesn’t have that. All of the things that she’s talking about could have been taken care of during the last 10 years, let’s say, while she had great power. But they weren’t taken care of. And if she ever wins this race, they won’t be taken care of.”

Yet despite such incompetence, Trump remains in a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton, and is several weeks from potentially being elected President of the United States. This is both a scathing indictment of the right-wing political elites that paved the way for Trump’s ascendance as well as his “basket of deplorables” — members of the public with racial resentment who are more compelled to vote for a reality TV star than they are to uphold civic virtue and the common good.

A democracy does not need to elect a person who fits the mold of Plato’s philosopher king in order to be healthy and successful. For example, the United States has had presidents who were intemperate (Lyndon Johnson), lacked preparation (Ronald Reagan) and overwhelmed by the demands of the office (George W. Bush). But Trump is something different. He is a fascist who wallows in his ignorance and stupidity about public affairs and then willfully confuses such attributes with wisdom and intellectual acumen.

The weeks between now and Election Day will provide an opportunity for Trump to demonstrate if he is ready to do the hard work — and yes, studying and preparation required — to be president of the United States of America.

It is unlikely that Trump will be able to successfully do this. To borrow from one of my favorite movies, “Star Wars,” on Nov. 8, the American people will have to ask themselves, “Who’s the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”

A vote for Trump is an indictment of one’s intelligence. Trump’s voters, sad proof of the Dunning-Kruger effect themselves, are pointing a dagger at the heart of the republic.

Women can play, too: Debunking one of the biggest stereotypes about women in the gaming community

This piece originally appeared on The Conversation.

Although women now make up almost half of all video game players, the gaming community remains, in some ways, hostile toward women.

For example, the GamerGate controversy, which began in 2014 and involved a harassment campaign against prominent female gamers, journalists and designers, reflected a longstanding undercurrent of misogyny and sexism in the community. In some cases, those who challenged the sexism found themselves threatened with rape or death.

There’s also the long-held stereotype that men are simply better gamers than women. Women gamers are often perceived as incompetent players who aren’t genuinely interested in the games but rather sign up to get attention. If a female gamer does play well, she’s often derided as a hacker — someone who cheats to gain an advantage — because “there is no way a girl can be that good.”

In a recent study, we set out to examine whether men really make better gamers than women and, if so, what drove the gender performance gap. Specifically, we wanted to compare how quickly men and women leveled up in Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, which are online worlds where thousands of players develop characters, make friends, join groups, complete quests and slay dragons together.

If men are actually better gamers than women, they should advance to higher levels within the same amount of play time. But if they don’t progress any faster, this finding would help refute one of the most pervasive stereotypes that continue to exist in the gaming community.

Getting to the next level

Our research used anonymous server data from over 10,000 men and women in two MMOs — “EverQuest II” in the United States and “Chevaliers’ Romance III” in China. We knew each player’s actual gender through their account registration information.

When players finish quests and kill monsters in MMOs, they earn experience points. When experience points reach a threshold, the player ascends to the next “level,” which unlocks new abilities, skills and access to new content. As in most video games, levels indicate a player’s progress.

Naturally, players spending a lot of time in the game are likely to reach high levels. That is why the speed of leveling up, rather than the level itself, measures performance in our study.

Before getting to our findings, we want to point out a couple of things we took into consideration. First, players who had reached the top level in the games were excluded in our analyses. Because top-level players couldn’t advance any further, their rate of leveling up was essentially zero. We removed these players to avoid confounding our analyses, but this also meant that we were not able to measure gender differences between the most advanced players.

Second, our analysis recognized that the rate of leveling up slows down as players progress. For example, it would take a lot more time and effort for a level 60 player to level up than a level 30 player. Therefore, our analysis compared apples to apples by evaluating players’ performance only against others who were at the same level.

Contrary to the stereotype, we found that player gender itself does not cause performance differences. Instead, the perception of women as poor gamers is fueled by other factors. For example, we found that women spent less time playing overall than men and chose more assistive character classes, such as Priests, who fare better healing group members than fighting on their own. When we took such factors into account by statistically controlling them in the analyses, the gender performance gap disappeared — women advanced at least as fast as men did in both games.

We also realized that different players are interested in different aspects of MMOs, and a few of those differences may correlate with gender. There’s some empirical evidence that men tend to focus more on achievement in video games — leveling up rapidly, gaining in-game status and competing against others — while women are drawn to social interactions, whether it’s helping other players or forming long-term relationships.

This suggests that men should advance faster than women. However, we found the opposite: Women advanced at least as fast as men did. So taking into account different play motivations (which we were unable to do in this study’s analysis) likely only strengthens our conclusions.

Beyond video games

The stereotype that women are inferior gamers is not only false, but could also make women more easily discouraged and less likely to play in the first place. Of course, this gender performance stereotype exists in a number of other contexts. In the software development community GitHub, for example, women are perceived as worse coders than men.

Our research has notable implications for this important social issue. Studies have shown that video games can be an important gateway to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. If stereotypes about girls and women are preventing them from playing, then it could potentially contribute to preexisting gender inequality and stereotyping in these fields.

One approach to dealing with this issue is to promote stereotype-free gaming experiences for women and girls through female-supportive gaming communities, such as the PMS Clan, one of the oldest and most renowned female-oriented gaming communities in the world. Scholars such as Gabriela Richard at Pennsylvania State University have found that members of these communities are more confident and perceive themselves as better gamers.

Game designers can also help. They have the ability to construct the games to make them less hostile and more welcoming to female players. For example, Riot Games established the Tribunal, a system that allows the player community to review reported bad behaviors from fellow players and then vote on whether to punish the offender. Banned players also get a “reform card” with the details of the offense, as well as judgments from the Tribunal. So far, the Tribunal has significantly reduced online harassment.

While programs like the Tribunal are a starting point in the larger battle to end gender stereotypes, our findings will hopefully allow female gamers to realize that, when it comes to inherent skill, they’re on a level playing field.

California’s waters, a death trap: Uncovering the Golden State’s secret whale and dolphin massacre

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


Until the 1980s, fishermen who fished for swordfish off the coast of California used harpoon guns to reel in their prey. As the industry modernized, the guns were exchanged for drift gillnets — gigantic nets the size of the Golden Gate Bridge that hang vertically in the water. By 1985, the catch reached a historic high, with fishermen landing more than 2,000 metric tons of fish. But there was a tragic and under-discussed consequence of that approach.

A drift gillnet catches far more than just the target fish. It scoops up any marine animal unfortunate enough to swim in its path, including whales, dolphins and marine mammals like seals and sea lions. Turtles, sharks, fish and even seabirds are inadvertently trapped and killed by these nets, which environmentalists have dubbed “invisible curtains of death.” California is the last state in the nation to permit this destructive, unsustainable fishing method.

Turtle Island Restoration Project, a California-based international marine conservation organization, has been campaigning to end the use of drift gillnets, also called driftnets. Last year, they released a report titled California Driftnet Fishery: The True Costs of a 20th Century Fishery in the 21st Century that details the impact the state’s driftnet fishery has on marine wildlife.

While the fishery’s primary target is swordfish, the report reveals a shocking statistic: Only one in eight animals caught by the fishery is actually a swordfish. The unlucky, non-targeted species trapped by the nets are known as bycatch.

According to the report:

Over the past ten years, nearly a thousand air-breathing whales, dolphins, and sea turtles have drowned, while thousands of sharks (that depend on constant movement) have suffocated. In the last ten years, an estimated 26,000 sharks overall were caught by this deadly fishery, with nearly 10,000 simply being tossed overboard.

The fishery was especially wasteful in its treatment of blue sharks. In the last decade, 8,186 blue sharks were caught, and an astounding 8,180 were discarded. Of those discarded nearly 5,313 were dead. The fishery also caught an astounding 8,000 common thresher sharks (a candidate species for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act) and is further jeopardizing shark populations.

The report also found that, over the last decade, the fishery has killed around 900 marine mammals, among them bottlenose dolphins, gray whales, humpback whales, California sea lions and elephant seals.

Remarkably, the California driftnet fishery comprises less than 20 boats, yet ranks among the worst 20 percent of all fisheries globally: The total combined bycatch of all the other fisheries on the West Coast would still not amount to the bycatch of this single fishery. Even more concerning is the heavy toll this fishery has taken on endangered species: One in every five animals caught in driftnets is listed as “threatened” on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Over the past 10 years, more than 20 critically endangered leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles have perished in the deadly nets.

“If these animals were washing up on our beaches and shores, we would be outraged,” says Joanna Nasar, Turtle Island spokesperson. “But because this fishery operates secretly off our coast, it is harder to see the impact.”

Driftnets: A global scourge

The trouble isn’t limited to California. Drift gillnets are used around the world and have caused the unintentional deaths of an untold number of marine animals.

In 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report, Net Loss: The Killing of Marine Mammals in Foreign Fisheries, which found a wide array of marine mammal species around the globe killed by the nets, from sperm whales in the Mediterranean, spinner dolphins in the Indian Ocean and false killer whales off the coast of Hawaii.

“For marine mammal populations, the problem is truly global, with at least 75 percent of all toothed whales species (like dolphins and porpoises), nearly 65 percent of baleen whale species (like humpback and right whales), and more than 65 percent of pinniped species (like sea lions) suffering from gillnet bycatch over the past 20 years,” said NRDC spokesperson Kimiko Martinez in an email.

United States to foreign fishermen: Stop killing marine mammals

In August, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the federal agency responsible for managing and protecting the nation’s marine resources, issued regulations prohibiting the importation of seafood from nations whose fisheries kill more whales and dolphins than federal standards permit. “U.S. trade partners will need to show that killing or injuring marine mammals incidental to fishing activities, or bycatch, in their export fisheries do not exceed U.S. standards,” the agency said in a press release.

“Fishing gear entanglements or accidental catch is a global threat to marine mammal populations,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries. (The agency is also known as NOAA Fisheries, being a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) “Establishing these bycatch criteria mark a significant step forward in the global conservation of marine mammals.”

But while the federal government seeks to protect whales, dolphins and other marine mammals from unsustainable fishing practices in international waters, California has yet to take similar steps to protect these animals in its own waters. “The secret massacre off our California coast and slaughter of marine life is tolerated only to allow an economically marginal fishery to continue, even while costing taxpayers more than the value of the fish,” says Turtle Island.

Whale- and dolphin-safe? Not so fast

According to NMFS, Americans consume nearly 5 billion pounds of seafood per year — almost 16 pounds of fish and shellfish per person. Half is wild-caught and half is farmed. And though about 90 percent is imported, the agency notes that “a significant portion of this imported seafood is caught by American fishermen, exported overseas for processing and then reimported to the United States.”

Sarah Uhlemann, international program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation nonprofit based in Tucson, Ariz., said the new regulations will force countries to meet U.S. conservation standards if they want access to the U.S. market, saving thousands of whales and dolphins from dying on hooks and in fishing nets around the world.” She added, “The U.S. government has finally recognized that all seafood consumed in the United States must be ‘dolphin-safe.’”

The new bycatch rules will have a global impact, forcing countries to ensure their activities are safer. But the rules will impact consumers as well. Following the rules’ five-year implementation period, shoppers will have a level of certainty that the seafood they eat isn’t tied to the wholesale slaughter of whales, dolphins and other marine mammals that is currently underway.

“People may assume that the fish they grab in the store is whale- and dolphin-safe,” said Zak Smith, a senior attorney with NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project. “That simply is not true. But with this rule we can export U.S. marine mammal protections to our trading partners and significantly limit the carnage caused by poorly regulated fisheries. Whales and dolphins have suffered long enough.”

Better late than never

The new rules are more than four decades in the making, and come after a slew of petitions and letters to federal lawmakers and the fisheries service from consumers and environmental organizations, as well as litigation. They could have been issued as early as 1973, the year after President Nixon signed into law the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the taking of marine mammals and places a moratorium on the import, export and sale of any marine mammal within the United States. The MMPA also requires nations exporting fish to the United States to demonstrate that their fisheries meet U.S. standards for protecting whales and dolphins.

Now, after 44 years, the U.S. government is finally implementing the law by establishing these new regulations.

“While not perfect, U.S. fishermen are required to take steps to protect marine mammals by modifying their fishing gear or avoiding marine mammal hot-spots,” Smith said. “Now, similar steps must be taken by foreign fleets seeking to sell their fish in the United States.”

“The public demands and the United States can — and by law, must — wield its tremendous purchasing power to save dolphins and whales from foreign fishing nets,” said biologist Todd Steiner, Turtle Island’s executive director. “We have the right to ensure that the seafood sold in the United States is caught in ways that minimize the death and injury of marine mammals.”

Lawmakers: Into the fray

While environmentalist hailed the new rules for international fisheries, they only apply to nations seeking to export fish to the United States — not to California’s own deadly fishery.

Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) has entered the breach by authoring SB 1114, a bill that seeks to phase out the use of mile-long driftnets in California waters and outlines a plan to transition to a new, more environmentally responsible fishing method based on deep-set buoy gear.

Supporters of the bill sent more than 5,000 e-mails to the office of Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Nearly 27,000 people signed a petition that was distributed to the California Senate and lawmakers received hundreds of calls from concerned citizens. But though SB 1114 made it out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, the bill didn’t make it out of the Appropriations Committee. In May, Sen. Lara didn’t allow the bill to go to a vote, thus ending the possibility of it becoming law this year.

The stalling of the bill does not reflect the feeling of California’s voters. According to a Pew poll published in August, 86 percent of California voters who learned about the pros and cons of fishing with drift gillnets favor an outright ban on the controversial method.

“The poll results align with our belief that the time has come for state fishery managers to reconsider their decision and stand with the strong majority of Californians who support the transition toward a better way of managing this public resource,” said Paul Shively, who directs Pew’s West Coast marine conservation efforts.

“Although this bill ultimately did not succeed in becoming law, we are not giving up on saving thousands of ocean animals from being injured and killed by driftnets,” said Cassie Burdyshaw, advocacy director at Turtle Island, in an email. “We are doing everything to show the Senate the widespread public support for the bill, but we are fighting against the holdout fishermen and the powerful industry lobbyists. Dolphins, whales and sea turtles should not be held hostage to politics.”

Burdyshaw said the bill may be reintroduced in the state legislature’s 2017 session. But part of that decision depends on whether the Pacific Fishery Management Council follows through with its recent move to federalize California’s driftnet fishery, a move that would squash attempts by citizens, environmental groups — and even the state legislature — to reform the fishery. The Council has jurisdiction over the more than 300,000-square-mile exclusive economic zone off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

“Instead of addressing the incredible amount of bycatch from the fishery, the Council’s answer is to remove the options Californians have to influence the fishery,” Burdyshaw told AlterNet. “If the fishery is federalized, the California legislature will no longer be able to save thousands of marine animals from being caught and killed unnecessarily in driftnets off California’s coast.”

In the meantime, Turtle Island “will closely monitor compliance to ensure the fewest dolphins and whales die in fishing nets to provide U.S. consumers with seafood,” said Turtle Island director Steiner, in an email.

A better alternative: Deep-sea buoy gear

Over the years, California’s driftnet fishery has been closed numerous times to aid the survival of certain species, such as common thresher sharks and leatherback and loggerhead turtles. But looking at the bycatch numbers, these seasonal closures just aren’t good enough.

Steiner said that, while he “welcomes the new import regulations …; it’s unfortunate that it took years and a lawsuit to compel the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce this provision of the MMPA.” He also noted the hypocrisy of a federal rule making sure foreign fisheries implement safer fishing methods while California continues to kill whales and dolphins with impunity in U.S. waters. “At home, we need to clean up our worst fisheries,” he said, “including the California driftnet fishery.”

While citizens, lawmakers and environmental groups have tried to introduce reform to California’s fisheries, the PFMC, while seeking to federalize the fishery, is also making internal moves to clean house. In March, the Council unanimously voted to authorize more sustainable fishing gear that could replace deadly drift gillnets. The Council is looking at the use of deep-set buoy gear, which uses a hook-and-buoy system giving fishermen the ability to drop hooks as deep as 1,200 feet to catch swordfish. When fishermen see a buoy being submerged, it takes them just minutes to pull up the catch. If it’s not a swordfish, they can release the animal back into the water without having to kill it.

Currently, deep-set buoy gear is being tested in California, but the road to actual authorization of the gear is a long one. Jennifer Gilden, the PFMC officer responsible for ecosystem fishery management, told AlterNet that the Council got an update in June and made some changes in the process to encourage more test fisheries to use buoy gear — and to identify data gaps that need to be filled. She also said that in September, the Council “will adopt the list of data gaps and continue finding ways to encourage test fisheries, so they can have more data before they authorize the fishery.”

“If the Council does authorize a deep-set buoy gear fishery, it will take a while because it has to go through the NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] process,” said Gilden, admitting that it is a slow process “with public involvement at every step.”

Deep-set buoy gear was authorized for use on the East Coast nearly a decade ago and has been proven to be a success. “It has reduced bycatch and helped to revitalize the small boat commercial fishing fleet in Florida by offering a simple, affordable way to catch swordfish,” according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

According to Pew:

This gear catches West Coast swordfish during the day and has been tested extensively over the past five years by scientists and cooperating fishermen, with minimal bycatch of nontarget species and a consistent catch of swordfish. In fact, buoy gear boasts a 94 percent marketable catch rate, meaning almost all of what is caught can be kept and sold.

Tara Brock, a senior associate with Pew’s oceans program, said the Council’s consideration of deep-set buoy gear is “a positive step toward a sustainable West Coast swordfish fishery.”

Treading water?

Still, there is skepticism. “After beginning the process to authorize deep-set buoy gear, the Pacific Fishery Management Council changed course at its June meeting and decided buoy gear will be allowed only through a handful of experimental fishing permits,” Turtle Island said in a statement.

The group is concerned that this decision effectively stalls the replacement of driftnets.

Turtle Island’s Burdyshaw told AlterNet that “the limited approval …; means there is no guarantee that deep-set buoy gear will eventually be authorized, and fishermen who want to use it could be hesitant to invest in the gear.” Turtle Island has called on PFMC to put the approval of deep-set buoy gear back on track at its upcoming meeting this month and to begin to phase out drift gillnets.

So while the U.S. government is putting the thumbscrews on foreign fishermen, the war against driftnets continues apace in the Golden State. Burdyshaw said the new regulations for imported fish “would go a lot further to minimize the death and injury of marine mammals if the driftnet fishery off California’s coast was shut down. Countries will soon be required to meet U.S. conservation standards, but California’s driftnet fishery for swordfish is among the worst of all fisheries in the world.”

For the marine animals swimming in California’s waters, the stalling of SB 1114 is not a good sign. And for some environmentalists, the actions taken by PFMC appear to be a sign of equivocating on the matter. But 2017 is another year, another legislative session and another chance for the public to speak up and demand change. In the meantime, if you don’t want the indiscriminate killing of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and seals on your conscience, ask your grocery seafood manager or restaurant server where their swordfish was caught before you buy it. If it came from California, chances are many other animals had to die for it as well, so try to make a more ethical choice.

14 Food Hacks That Will Take Your Cooking To The Next Level

#1. Use a spray bottle for oil, so you’ll enjoy less oily meals and save money buying oil less often.


#2. Avoid eating a large meal before bed; your last meal should be 3-4 hours before you go to sleep.


#3. Fry with two tablespoons of broth instead of oil for healthier meals bursting with flavor.


#4. Make sauces with natural yoghurt instead of using store-bought sauces, which are often full of additives, preservatives, and sugar.


#5. Use fruit puree as a substitute for butter in baking.


It makes desserts less fatty and tastes awesome, too. Try these easy and delicious purees to get started.

#6. Invest in cast-iron cookware, as it doesn’t give off harmful substances and conducts heat better.


#7. Season broccoli with mustard.

Food Network

It tastes great and mustard helps you digest all that vitamin B in broccoli. Get started with this simple salad.

#8. Make your own mince, as it’s fresher, tastier, and lower in fat than ready-made mince (it tastes better, too).


#9. Buy smaller plates and bowls to stop yourself piling up your plate and overeating.


#10. Try different kinds of flour, like oat or buckwheat, for healthier pastries and to bring new flavors and textures to your baking.


#11. Garnish dishes with sesame seeds as they’re super-rich in calcium — and your meals will look totally Instagram-worthy.


#12. Instead of boring breadcrumbs, coat food in ground nuts, chickpeas, lentil flour — whatever takes your fancy.


It’s healthier than always using a breadcrumb coating and recipes like this dukkah-coated chicken taste divine.

#13. Keep vegetables fresh in the fridge by wrapping them in paper towels to absorb excess moisture and prevent mould.


#14. Cut down your salt intake by only adding salt to your plate, not the entire pot.


Top 10 British Comedy Songs

Top 10 British Comedy Songs

This list looks at some of the best comedy songs released in Britain in the last 50 years. Since the renaissance period, man has used music as a form of comedy and the modern times are no exception. Here are the top 10 British Comedy Songs.

1. The Fastest Milkman in the West – Benny Hill

This song reached number 1 and stayed there for 4 weeks. It is typical Benny Hill.

See the “Funniest Man on Television” over and over again with Benny Hill: The Complete Megaset at!

2. ‘Ello John, Got a New Motor – Alexei Sayle

Alexei Sayle is famous for the anarchic comedy the Young Ones, but deserves a lot of recognition for this track. It shows just how alternative the charts could be in the early eighties in England.

3. With My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock – George Formby

George Formby was a pioneer of early comedy songs and famous for his double entendres. His songs may seem a little tame nowadays, but the BBC banned his tune Cleaning Windows for being too suggestive. Strangely With My Stick of Blackpool Rock is far worse.

4. Every Sperm is Sacred – Monty Python

There were many Monty Python songs, but this is one of the funniest. Many religious people were not overly impressed.

Watch every hilarious moment in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life at!

5. The Chicken Song – Spitting Image

“Skin…; your-…; self alive;
?Learn to speak Arapho;
?Climb inside a dog
?And behead an Eskimo!
?Eat a Renault 4;
?Wear salami in your ears;
?Casserole your Gran;
?Disembowel yourself with spears!”

Released in 1986 and hitting number 1, this is another example of how alternative the UK charts were in the eighties. Spitting Image was a deeply satirical TV show using vile looking puppets to parody celebrities and politicians. The Chicken Song is a spoof of catchy novelty songs and the bizarre chorus stays in your head for days.

6. The Ying Tong Song – The Goons

The hilarious Goons Show in the fifties was where Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan made their name. This song is a good example of their surrealist humor.

7. Jilted John – Graham Fellows

Graham Fellows is an underrated comic, mostly because his humor is so subtle. Like his other creation, John Shuttleworth, Jilted John is funnier the more you watch it. Jilted John is a rare example of someone daring to parody punk in the seventies. And he was young too.

8. Do the Funky Gibbon – The Goodies

This song is so stupid that you really do not want to find it funny, but unfortunately you cannot help but laugh along to their good-natured antics. The Goodies released a few songs into the charts including A Man’s Best Friend is a Duck.

9. Lily the Pink – Scaffold

An Interesting band that included poet Richard McGough and Paul Mc Cartney’s brother Michael. The song begins relatively straight, but deteriorates into something quite bizarre. It stayed at number 1 for four weeks in 1968.

10. Divorce – Billy Connelly

Billy Connelly based this on a song by Tammy Wynette about two people who spell out the word divorce when they want to discuss it in front of their child. Billy Connelly replaces the child with a dog.

Contributor: Simon Arms

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Three-day PFDC Bridal Fashion Week concludes

LAHORE (Web Desk) – PFDC L’Oréal Paris Bridal Week 2016 has concluded in Lahore on Friday.

Four renowned designers including Nomi Ansari, Zara Shahjahan, Sonia Azhar and Ali Zeeshan showcased their collections on the third and last day.

TV actors and actresses also graced the ramp while being adorned with dazzling dresses.

The platform presented contemporary and traditional Pakistani bridal attires, while fusing hair and makeup trends to create looks for the upcoming bridal season of 2016-2017.

PFDC has established regular fashion weeks since February 2010, endeavoring to map Pakistan on international fashion week circuits, in collaboration with giant global brands.

Pakistan’s First Hand Drawn Animation Is In The Hands Of A Young Genius

pakistans_first_hand_drawn_animation_is_in_the_hands_of_a_young_genius_01 Usman Riaz is incredibly creative and very talented. He’s a writer, a musician, a composer, an artist and just generally a very interesting person with a constant desire to learn and create.

pakistans_first_hand_drawn_animation_is_in_the_hands_of_a_young_genius_02 At the young age of 25, Usman Riaz, has taken on quite a challenge. He decided to make Pakistan’s first hand-drawn animation. It’s not an easy feat to accomplish. After all, Pakistan literally doesn’t have a hand drawn animation industry. So to Pakistan’s first hand drawn animation you would sort of have to create the industry first. Or at least get the right people together to create the first hand drawn anime studio. Sounds pretty difficult, right? And then there’s also all the financing issues.

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This Is How Animals Would Look If Their Eyes Were On The Front Of Their Heads And It’s So Wrong

It’s so weird that animals have eyes on the sides of their heads, while humans have them slap bang on the front, right? It keeps us up at night thinking about it (er, sometimes). One Imgur user with some serious Photoshop skills and some spare time decided to find out what animals would look like with their eyes placed like us humans.

And it’s so, so weird.


Although it did make this shark look less like a toothy menace and more like a friendly goofball.


How about this fluffy bunny rabbit?


Are you creeped out yet?

This giraffe doesn’t know what to think.


And this chicken’s tiny eyes are just hilarious. It looks so surprised.


But not as surprised as this pigeon. This guy is SHOCKED.


Dolphins with front facing eyes just look like big lovable derps.


And then there’s this alien goat.


So now you know.