7 times John Oliver perfectly captured what’s wrong with America — and triggered real reform – ADAM JOHNSON, ALTERNET SATURDAY, NOV 7, 2015 04:00 AM PST


The HBO host has accomplished what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert never could. Here are a few of his best segments

7 times John Oliver perfectly captured what's wrong with America -- and triggered real reform
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNetJohn Oliver’s “This Week Tonight” is far and away the most refreshing thing on late-night TV. While other shows center around round-table chats and celebrity interviews, Oliver uses his massive platform to highlight overlooked but important political issues. Recently, he told CBS that his focus was “absurd public policies.”

By highlighting the absurdities of American institutions, he milks the injustice for a laugh while drawing the attention of millions of viewers to the issue. It’s a brilliant combination that, when it fires on all cylinders, makes for great comedy and sometimes even triggers reforms.

Here are his seven best segments.

1. Net Neutrality 

Arguably Oliver’s breakout hit, this segment masterfully dissected the knotty issue of net neutrality and its effect on free speech. Oliver explained why creating a two-tiered Internet was unfair, and even recruited the Internet’s “vile commenters” to spam the FCC’s website, which was taking public comment at the time. As a result, the website crashed and FCC Chair Tom Wheeler had to hilariously insist to the public that he “wasn’t a dingo.”

2. Abusive Animal Agriculture Practices

Possibly the least sexy topic his show has ever covered, Oliver took on huge poultry processing corporations that exploit small farmers and work to gut legislation that regulates the industry and protects animal welfare. In one of the more clear-cut political wins, the segment actually resulted in a pro-industry rider being left out of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill this summer for the first time in years. Several members of Congress cited Oliver’s segment for providing the political will to remedy the problem.

3. Bail System Exploits the Poor

America’s bail system is a two-tiered system where those who can afford to pay their bail go free and those who can’t are often forced to plead guilty or waste away in lockup before trial. Like many of the topics Oliver covers, it’s an injustice that exists largely due to inertia, despite being widely condemned as being unfair. One month after Oliver’s segment aired, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcedthe city was reforming its bail system to lessen the burden on low-level offenders, allowing a judge to release up to 3,000 defendants awaiting trial. While there were certainly other factors at play, many pundits insisted Oliver’s segment helped bring the topic to the forefront of public debate.

Article continues:

 

http://www.salon.com/2015/11/07/7_times_john_oliver_perfectly_captured_whats_wrong_with_america_and_triggered_reform_partner/

Football, brain injuries and right-wing denial: The paranoid he-man propaganda that insists the game is safer than ever – STEVE ALMOND MONDAY, AUG 24, 2015 03:59 PM PDT


The toxic pro-masculinity camp insists that mere “bumps and bruises” are the sport’s biggest dangers

Football, brain injuries and right-wing denial: The paranoid he-man propaganda that insists the game is safer than ever

Last week, I was asked to appear on “Outside the Lines,” ESPN’s flagship news magazine, to discuss what football people tend to refer to, somewhat squeamishly, as “the Chris Borland situation.”

Last March Borland, a star linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, shocked the sports world by announcing that he was quitting the game after just one season, because he feared he might suffer brain damage if he continued to play.

This was not exactly a far-fetched notion, given that the NFL itself had estimated—after years of denying any link between football and brain disease—that up to 30 percent of their former players would suffer from cognitive ailments such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

When I arrived at the studio, I was told I should be ready to discuss the “meaning” of the Chris Borland situation, which did not strike me as particularly elusive. When your employer announces in federal court documents that you have a one in three chance of being neurologically disabled in the course of doing your job, the smart money is on retiring.

Still, I was excited to record the episode because “Outside the Lines” is easily the most intelligent and journalistically sophisticated show within the vast and ever-expanding kingdom of ESPN. The program eschews bombastic punditry and slavish promotion (cue the highlight porn) in favor of in-depth reporting and conversation.

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/08/24/football_brain_injuries_and_right_wing_denial_the_paranoid_he_man_propaganda_that_insists_the_game_is_safer_than_ever/

 

Rio’s waters are so filthy that 2016 Olympians risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete – Brad Brooks and Jenny Barchfield, Associated Press Jul. 30, 2015, 1:38 AM


Brazil 2016 Olympics

In this July 28, 2015 photo, workers remove garbage collected by floating waste barriers in a canal at the Mare slum complex, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Athletes competing in next year’s Summer Olympics here will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games, an Associated Press investigation has found.

An AP analysis of water quality revealed dangerously high levels of viruses and bacteria from human sewage in Olympic and Paralympic venues – results that alarmed international experts and dismayed competitors training in Rio, some of whom have already fallen ill with fevers, vomiting and diarrhea.

It is the first independent comprehensive testing for both viruses and bacteria at the Olympic sites.

Brazilian officials have assured that the water will be safe for the Olympic athletes. But the government does not test for viruses.

Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated. Raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites.

As a result, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.

Despite decades of official pledges to clean up the mess, the stench of raw sewage still greets travelers touching down at Rio’s international airport. Prime beaches are deserted because the surf is thick with putrid sludge, and periodic die-offs leave the Olympic lake, Rodrigo de Freitas, littered with rotting fish.

“What you have there is basically raw sewage,” said John Griffith, a marine biologist at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project. Griffith examined the protocols, methodology and results of the AP tests.

“It’s all the water from the toilets and the showers and whatever people put down their sinks, all mixed up, and it’s going out into the beach waters. Those kinds of things would be shut down immediately if found here,” he said, referring to the U.S.

Article continues:

http://www.businessinsider.com/rios-filth-is-already-spoiling-the-2016-summer-olympics-2015-7

Chattanooga shooting: Pentagon discourages civilian guards – BBC News July 25 2015


Terry Jackson, left, and Jonathan McCroskey, members of Operation Hero Guard, outside military recruiting station in Cleburne, Texas. 21 July 2015

Armed civilians, calling themselves Operation Hero Guard, gathered outside a military recruiting station in Cleburne, Texas

The Pentagon has urged US citizens not to carry out armed patrols outside military recruitment centres.

Civilians acting as unofficial guards have appeared outside some centres since five service personnel were shot dead last week in Tennessee.

Military personnel are generally barred from carrying firearms at recruitment centres and bases.

The Pentagon says it appreciates the support but armed civilians could pose an unintended security risk.

“While we greatly appreciate the outpouring of support for our recruiters from the American public, we ask that individuals not stand guard at recruiting offices as it could adversely impact our mission, and potentially create unintended security risks,” said spokesman Peter Cook in a statement.

“We continue to partner with and rely on first responders for the safety of the communities where our service members live and work.”

US authorities say 24-year-old gunman Muhammed Youssef Abdulazeez acted alone when he attacked two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killing five US service members.

Abdulazeez was shot and killed by police during the attack. His motive was unclear.

Since then, armed civilians – some of them members of private militias – have turned up outside recruitment centres saying they are supporting those inside.

One group appeared in Cleburne, Texas, armed with assault rifles and calling themselves Operation Hero Guard.

In Lancaster, Ohio, armed civilians were ordered off the property after one accidentally discharged his rifle into the pavement.

US officials say there is no indication of further danger to recruitment centres and the government does not intend to change the way they are staffed.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33662891

Chris Urmson: How a driverless car sees the road – Filmed March 2015 at TED2015


Statistically, the least reliable part of the car is … the driver. Chris Urmson heads up Google’s driverless car program, one of several efforts to remove humans from the driver’s seat. He talks about where his program is right now, and shares fascinating footage that shows how the car sees the road and makes autonomous decisions about what to do next.

This is the NRA’s worst nightmare: The new gun safety study that gun nuts don’t want you to hear about – FRIDAY, JUN 12, 2015 01:53 PM PDT


Think gun safety reforms don’t actually reduce violent crime? Connecticut debunks that tired myth

This is the NRA's worst nightmare: The new gun safety study that gun nuts don't want you to hear about

A law requiring people to apply for a permit before buying a handgun helped Connecticut quietly reduce its firearm-related homicide rate by 40 percent, according to a new study out from Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. And this week, announced in conjunction with the research, lawmakers from Connecticut introduced a measure to encourage other states to adopt their own permit programs.

Connecticut’s “permit to purchase” law, in effect for two decades, requires residents to undergo background checks, complete a safety course and apply in-person for a permit before they can buy a handgun. The law applies to both private sellers and licensed gun dealers.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins reviewed the homicide rate in the 10 years before the law was implemented and compared it to longitudinal estimates of what the rate would have been had the law not be enacted. The study found a 40 percent reduction in gun-related homicides. Bolstering what researchers say is the correlation between the permit law and the drop in gun homicides, there wasn’t a similar drop in non-firearm homicides.

Article continues:

http://www.salon.com/2015/06/12/this_is_the_nras_worst_nightmare_the_new_gun_safety_study_that_gun_nuts_dont_want_you_to_hear_about/