Mass Spam Infilitration of Facebook Support Groups?

I have Essential Tremor, as well as a lot of the symptoms that suggest Parkinsons, and I have been involved in support groups on Facebook for a few years now, but I have noticed a strange trend, that others don’t seem to pick up on very well and it is leading to a very effective way to deceive lots of people — especially older people who may not realize the difference between a legitimately scholarly article and a fake designed to spam people.

The spammer will typically have an ordinary American name, and will post an article which is emblazoned with a headline that matches the nature of the support group, such as “New Research in Multiple Sclerosis Treatment” and the article will be dated within a few days to appear as if new.

However, if you follow the link, you’ll be taken to a site that has a highly spammy-sounding domain with odd extensions (to the effect of healthbenefit.info or latestresearch.website just as an example of the style), and the content of the article will be an actual old article or combination of actual articles that are really just cut-and-pasted from other scholarly articles, but from years ago that have since been refuted.

A friend of mine with MS was recently tagged in one of these, which was shared quite innocently by a friend of his with good intentions.

Below are a few red flags to watch out for:

1. Look at the website name first. If it says something generic like “bestcure.info” or “amazinghelp.site” or “findinganswers.help” or something similar, then proceed with caution. I haven’t encountered any that have trojans yet, but I’m not going to be surprised when that starts happening. This generic domain name, even if it says something slightly more specific like “latestparkinsons.site” be careful.

2. Without clicking on it yet, try to google the first few lines of the text preview, and use quotes around the whole phrase when searching. In the case of the above example, the article at the fake site states it was published in April 2016, but searching for “An Italian doctor has been getting dramatic results with” leads to an article from November 2009 with the identical story, as if it were just lifted straight out and republished.

Although the original looks even spammier (loaded with advertisements), at least it cites its sources, which most of the spammy don’t — plus this post is the earliest version google can locate for now, so google at least lends it some credibility for being the first to publish this article.

At the end of the original, however, an update is provided that the results of that announcement had been refuted in 2013, from a 2013 trial — but the spam article doesn’t post the refutation, since maintaining the false hope this could still be a viable solution for patients in desperate need of help is a really easy way to ensnare readers.

As a word of advice, consider employing these strategies before sharing any “amazing breakthrough” kinds of medical articles, even if your intention is hope for someone you love. If you’re in doubt with whether the site is authentic, then don’t share it.

Research on your own, such as googling the doctor’s name, or seeing if the article you’re reading provides any links to where they got their information. If the article references a certain study at university of something, google that university study and find out if it’s real first, or find out if there have been any studies that refute those claims. Don’t contribute to more confusion the way that other people might believe that you did research it, when you didn’t.

All English Grammar Questions Answered At Once: Is it this way, or that way?

The type of English grammar question I see most frequently is of the sort, “Which way is proper: this way, or another way?” as if to settle a dispute or idle curiosity.

The answer in general, is that you must first specify a style of English to measure up against. There is no “standard English” that governs usage. If you think this is what dictionaries are for, you might seriously reconsider that whole idea after reading on.

Asking, “Is the term really supposed to be preventative, or is it really preventive?” without specifying a style, is like asking, “Am I allowed to hold the ball with my hands?” without specifying which sport. Being able to hold the ball with your hands depends if you’re the goalie in soccer or lacrosse, but is acceptable if you’re playing NFL football. It’s generally required in bowling, but disallowed in cricket.

Saying, “I mean, according to the rules of English in general,” in response to the style question, is like responding, “I don’t mean any sport.” Well, then there is either no answer, or perhaps too many answers to decide on just one, because no style governs the others. The rules for bowling do not govern jai alai; the rules for hopscotch do not govern lacrosse. The rules for APA style do not govern the Chicago Press; the rules for Yahoo! online style do not govern writing a letter to your grandmother. Unless you specify a style to measure the question against, you’ll get a thousand answers and no answer.

In the way that there are specific rules for the broad spectrum of each kind of sport that exists, and that each sport’s rules govern no sport but itself: English itself has no all-governing style that must be followed, but does have within it several styles which self-govern.

When I was at university for my major in English, I also took print journalism classes for my minor. In my news-writing classes, we were bound by the Associated Press Stylebook which prescribed rules such as hyphenation of “eight-year-old” and spelling out the number if it were below 10, phrasing large currency amounts such as “$10 million” instead of putting all the zeroes, and referring to a source in the story by their surname after having mentioned it fully once already.

But, there are other styles that other journalism programs abide by, such as Chicago Press Style or even the The Yahoo! Style Guide for online writing. Which style you are bound by is either up to you, or a governing influence such as an employer who can call your employment into question for failure to abide by the rules of that style.

This journalistic style differed from my English literature classes that required essays. A friend of mine taking the same type of classes received a call for a re-write of his literature essay with the words, “This might make a good story for the NYT, but this is English literature,” in red pen. Most of our literature classes abode by Strunk & White’s Manual of Style.

You may recall having to make term paper citations in MLA, APA, Turabian, or other such styles that have specific orders for parenthetical source references appended to statements within the paper. Even further, the professor could institute formatting styles such as double-spaced, certain margins, font sizes, and more. Of all of those styles, none of them are correct except within the confines of the situation — none of them governing English itself.

You may have said, “Well my Dear Mrs. Meriwether I had for home room in 8th grade Literature, said they’re is a contraction, and their is possessive, and showed us how the dictionary says so!”

The dictionary does not list the limitations of how words are permitted to be used. The dictionary does not prohibit a usage that isn’t listed within it. Perhaps more generally, the dictionary does not prescribe anything, but rather describes. Stay with me.

The researchers for dictionaries, called lexicographers, observe how words are used in every-day writing like Facebook, magazines, newspapers, Twitter, novels, TV scripts, letters, and more. These lexicographers jot down the different ways that the writers of the words intended to use them. That intention is pivotal — what the writer intends the word to mean is what is observed.

For instance, if one lexicographer observes that a particular writer uses abode when appearing to mean domicile, while another writer appears to use it as past-tense for abide, the lexicographer documents both usages. All of these go into one huge database called a corpus, which has all of the other lexicographical documentation from others observing in the same fashion.

When a dictionary entry is crafted, the corpus is consulted to identify the most numerous uses of a specific word in a certain way. For instance, use of abode may show in their records to spike higher when used to describe a domicile than as past-tense for abide. What constitutes “frequently enough” usage is arbitrary to the publisher’s whim, and not standardized. What you see in a dictionary entry is merely describing the ways which the word was observed to have been used most frequently — neither a limitation nor an approval of whether one is allowed or disallowed to use it. Other facts of the entry may reflect a predictable level of usefulness to the reader, but shies away from commandments of official status.

Merriam-Webster posits (emphasis theirs), “By relying on citational evidence, we hope to keep our publications grounded in the details of current usage so they can calmly and dispassionately offer information about modern English. That way, our references can speak with authority without being authoritarian.”

Michael Quinion, publisher of World Wide Words who also provides citations for the Oxford English Dictionary and wrote a third of the entries for the second edition of the Oxford Dictionary of New Words, remarks, Many believe that when (and only when) a word appears in a reputable dictionary it receives formal validation and can take its place in the English lexicon,” adding that, “As one of a number of researchers who collect evidence of new usage for the OED, it intrigued me to think that I might be a member, even a junior member, of a shadowy cabal that sets the standards for all well-educated English speakers. No — the process really is as anarchic as it seems.”

Why is it, do you think, that dictionary entries contain meanings in the order listed? Why that particular order? They’re listed in the order of most frequently observed.

There was a fracas several years ago when journalism pieces began to emerge announcing that dictionaries were “changing” the entries to include meanings about marriage that included ways other than merely a man and a woman, and outrage resulted from people who believed dictionary editors were bending to the will of political pressure to make the changes — but that was simply untrue.

The simple fact was that the observed usage of marriage began to appear in commonly observed text to intend to mean ways different than simply one man and one woman — so since the statistics of the corpus changed because of how the common people used marriage, so too did the content of the entry. It was believed to be a political move by those who failed to understand dictionaries, as if they dictionaries were proposing that marriage is or isn’t actually one way or another. Rather, the dictionaries merely reflect how the masses intend words.

Think of a newspaper that reports on a murder. Is the newspaper saying that since a particular murder happened at one point in time, in a certain way, that all future murders must take place in the same pattern? No, the newspaper is merely describing an event that took place prior, not prescribing how murders must take place.

Likewise, is the sports page mandating that all future sporting events between two teams must be scored 77-113? No, that is the score of a prior event, not future events. Likewise, a dictionary is a newspaper about how words have been observed to be used, not how they are limited from being used.

Also, the idea that only the most frequent usages are what must be used (perhaps for purposes of requiring as few as possible questions of intent) is a philosophy, not a rule. If it were a rule, then we would not have even heard of the poet ee cummings, as nearly every bit of his poetry exhibits the astandard.

The insistence that language be standardized to offer the least ambiguity is merely a preference of communication applied in numerous valid situations, like the medical field when mere seconds of inefficient language breakdown may cost a patient their life. In journalism, setting a codified style can be employed successfully to act as evidence in a courtroom scenario such as for a libel case whether the ambiguity of something can be cited against the stylebook, to identify objectively what a certain phrasing did actually mean, in the face of what was falsely interpreted by the reader.

Further, consider the classification of an English degree — it is an Arts degree. If you are taking a class for how to paint in the pointillism style, and you professor says you must use a certain brand of paint, are you failing to paint in pointillism by using an off-brand? No, you’re merely transgressing the limitations the professor insists for the purposes of achieving a passing grade within the context of the class.

If you use broad brush strokes and call it pointillism, are you still painting in pointillism? You still could be, because art is not even susceptible to regulation except by entirely subjective standards, rather than objective measures. The broad brush strokes could be to make a single large dot spanning a single canvas, whereas the completed work is a series of so-dotted canvases.

Further, considering the fact that the dictionary itself is based on how words are intended to be used, it could be reasoned that the dictionary is merely a listing of the ways words are most often intended — and that a dictionary itself is not more reliable than asking the source what was meant, but just that larger numbers of other people meant to use the word differently than the usage in question, and the larger numbers don’t make it more correct unless your personal philosophy insists on matching the trends of the masses.

Think of a hashtag search of Twitter or Tumblr. If you enter a search for #SNSD, what you will receive is a listing of the observed usage of #SNSD, not the limitations on how someone is allowed to use #SNSD. The dictionary is, in essence, a hashtag search if almost all words were hashtags — and observe the trends in the ways people have used them, without suggesting that those ways are the only ways allowed to use them.

If it were up to me, the “correct” philosophy of communication would be the speaker to be the sole authority on the meaning of their usage. My reason for this is that, under a system that proposes that the listener’s interpretation of the speaker’s words having more merit, allows for cases of abuse to be credible, such as situations in which consent is required.

If the listener has more credibility on acting upon interpretation, then yes may simply be interpreted as no, and the abuser may act by interpretation of consent. However, if the speaker’s usage is investigated and given higher credibility than the listener’s guessings-of, then there will be little room for miscommunication. The speaker, who would suffer the greatest amount over the misunderstood intent, should have the highest degree of authority of what their own usage intended to express.

The fact that dictionaries are crafted at their very essence upon this aspect is very significant — and I think you may find that those who (falsely) believe that dictionaries actually mandate correct or incorrect usages also believe that it is the listener who has the authority over proper interpretation of the speaker’s intent, rather than the speaker over their own.

Someone told me that an old teaching adage supposes that, “If the student hasn’t learned, then the teacher hasn’t taught.” I would propose a modification instead to be, “If a teacher refuses questioning, then the teacher hasn’t taught; if the student hasn’t questioned, then the student hasn’t studied.”

How to Win at Machi Koro – Basic Edition

The easiest way to win at Machi Koro: Collect the Wheat Field, Ranch, Furniture Factory and Mine cards only. If you can, get at least 3 each. Get mines as soon as you possibly can, and keep them aside even if you can’t roll 2 dice yet. Get at least 2 mines before buying a Furniture Factory. If your teammates think they are smart, they will avoid rolling two dice even if they can, so that they will prevent you from scoring a large amount, but you will still score a decent amount from low rolls. The payoff is when you are able to roll 2 dice and everyone else refuses to (in order to prevent you from scoring big), and then you roll an 8 or 9 and score massively and are able to buy the largest cards in a single roll. The first time I tried it, I scored 36 in a single roll and was able to buy the 22 card after only having the 4 open.

Did the Return of Kings Guy Promote Legalizing Rape? NO. Here’s Why.

Making the rounds today is the story that Daryush Valizadeh, leader of a group of manly-men called Return of Kings, has cancelled a gathering of rape-legalization advocates after not being able to find sufficient secure meeting areas. Ironic, right? Actually, no.

The article that many are reporting as the promotion of rape legalization was just a satirical absurdity, and Valizadeh himself has stated repeatedly that it is just a thought experiment and not meant to be taken seriously. But, naturally, the kind of person who doesn’t fact-check took it as real and continuously makes clickbait headlines like This Colossal Douche Thinks Rape Should Be Legalized instead, seemingly preferring the kick they get from being angry or making others angry.

From the same site that the so-called rape promotion article came from, is this quote:

Normally, if there is a satire site, you can find somewhere on the site that states that the article(s) is/are satire, and nobody reports on those as if they were true. However, the people who are continuously fooled into thinking The Onion is real are laughed out of the park because they don’t bother to check. I’m at a loss to explain how so many people simply refuse to make the same acknowledgement of the same kind of disclaimer on the site they claim is pro-rape:

Q: “Why do you want to legalize rape?”

I don’t. Legalizing rape is a notion so insanely absurd I never imagined that people would take it 100% seriously, including politicians. I don’t believe any form of physical violence against men or women should be legalized. I’ve said that “How To Stop Rape” was a satirical thought experiment so many times that it’s clear to me current misinterpretation of it by the media is deliberate.

But do you want to know the real irony of all this?

Was The Arapahoe School Shooting Covered Last Friday? No. Here’s Why.

The Arapahoe High School shooting involving an armed school resource officer that confronted the shooter that resulted in only the death of the shooter wasn’t covered by the media last Friday, because it is currently 2016 and the shooting happened in 2013.

PLUS, the shooting at Arapahoe High School didn’t involve a confrontation with an armed school resource officer. One was on the premises, but accounts don’t confirm that the officer arrived to the scene in time. It was a janitor that alerted school administration of the possible shooter, know noticed him entering.

PLUS, there was one other casualty, a fellow student of the shooter who was shot seconds within entering the building and died 8 days later.

PLUS, the weapon used was legally obtained by the 18-year old student shooter, where it is legal to purchase a pump-action shotgun but not a handgun. Gun advocates who share this as proof that gun rights should be recognized as having saved the day are not only sharing outright falsity, but are sharing a story that is actually counterevidence.

If you have shared the meme that this post refutes, go back to where you posted it and delete it, because you’re spreading utter nonsense.

Haters of #Daraprim Price Raiser @MartinShkreli Should Know This First

Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, has been in the news recently for raising the price of an “AIDS drug” from $13.50 to $750. However, there may be several things you didn’t know about the controversy that simply aren’t getting much coverage, instead overblowing only the most outrage-sounding aspects (which are most half-truths).

1. Daraprim is not an AIDS drug. Daraprim cures toxoplasmosis, and is not used to treat AIDS. Toxoplasmosis is an obscure parasitic infection that some AIDS sufferers might get, and the treatment for it is only about 100 pills. Since it is a cure, rather than simply a treatment, you wouldn’t need to take it indefinitely like AIDS sufferers must do to treat their autoimmune condition. Calling Daraprim an “AIDS drug” is like calling flu treatments a drug for schizophrenia, since schizophrenics can get the flu too.

2. Turing Pharmaceuticals gives away the drug for $1/tablet each or even for free, which is a drastic drop in price, not an increase. According to this Bloomberg video interview, Martin himself describes how the company will work with patients who need Daraprim to make sure they get it even when insurance company negotiations are still on the table. “If you can’t afford the drug, we’ll give it away totally for free,” Martin says in the Bloomberg interview. He’s not limiting access, he’s expanding the free program that was in place before, and increasing access. He’s not holding it for ransom.

3. It’s not price gouging. Price gouging would be like a desert oasis charging $750 for a sip of water, instead of giving it away freely to those in need of hydration. This situation is like a large desert oasis in which there are several shops that sell a sunburn lotion for $900, and the one single shop that used to offer it for $14 raised the price to $750 — which is still lower than everyone else — but also just gave it away to those who couldn’t pay $750.

Did An American Buy Rights to an AIDS drug, Raising the Price from $13.50 to $750? NO. Here’s why.

In the news recently is the story of a man, Martin Shkreli, 32, who started Turing Pharmaceuticals. Turing purchased the North American marketing rights to Daraprim and did change the price drastically.

A few things to clarify:
1. The drug is not for AIDS. The drug is a cure for a disease called toxoplasmosis, whereby those who need it only have to take it for a certain limited time and the symptoms are often either non-existent or periodically flu-like according to this, wheereas AIDS patients need to take their drugs for the rest of their lives. People with AIDS are susceptible to getting it (but may never even encounter it), but the drug is not for the treatment of AIDS itself.

2. About half of the new sales of the drug price was dropped from $13.50 to ONE DOLLAR, as stated directly by the CEO himself, and the other half are up over $700. For some reason, people seem to be focusing specifically on the outrage for the increase, but not lauding him for lowering the price down to a single dollar, for people who need it. There’s more than one reason to sell a drug, instead of specifically directly to patients for treatment.

The New York Times recently published an article that stirred up much of the controversy — and it even goes on to embed a CNBC video interview with Shkreli himself, as if it were a source.

Strangely enough, that source very clearly observes that the drug is not an HIV/AIDS medication, but treats a specific parasitic infection called toxplasmosis, which some AIDS patients get. To call this an “AIDS drug” would be the same level of absurd as calling an wooden spoon a “scalp injury device” since they’re used in this common prank game — when in reality, only some people use wooden spoons to hit people over the head, but that’s not what it’s even made for. The drug cures a specific parasitic disease, and people with auto-immune disorders like AIDS can contract it, but the drug itself does not treat AIDS.

A flu treatment, for instance, is also not an AIDS drug, even though people who have AIDS can get the flu. If they need to take a flu treatment, they would be treating the flu, not treating AIDS. Likewise, people take the drug whose price “skyrocketed” are taking it to specifically to treat toxomplasmosis, not to treat AIDS.

For some reason very little emphasis is made on the fact that the same Turing Pharmaceuticals company also offers the drug for one single dollar, down from $13.50 as before. That would mean your medication bill could be reduced from $405 for a 30-pill supply, down to just $30 — and that’s really good news for people who need it. But, perhaps the outrage just makes for better news.