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Jan 15, 2019

John Stossel. Silicon Valley Manipulates, Asians Sue Harvard, Bogus Gun Control Study, Google and Facebook’s Creepy Line, Socialism and Violence and Vaping.


Does Silicon Valley Manipulate Users?

End Racial Preferences at Colleges?

Media Hype Questionable Gun Control Study.

Stossel’s Book recommendations on Liberty.

Google and Facebook Cross "The Creepy Line".

Socialism Leads To Violence.

Let Them Vape.


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Does Silicon Valley Manipulate Users?

John Stossel

Published on Dec 18, 2018

The new film "The Creepy Line" argues that tech giants sometimes silence conservatives and try to steer America left.

 Leaked emails show some Google engineers blaming their company for Trump's 2016 win, suggesting that the site should censor outlets like the Daily Caller and Breitbart. Google says the company never did that, but for many people, it raises the question: Could Google executives flip an election? "Google's senior management was heavily in favor of Hillary Clinton,” The Creepy Line writer Peter Schweizer tells John Stossel. "Their ability to manipulate the algorithm is something that they’ve demonstrated the ability to do in the past ... and the evidence from academics who monitored 2016 was clearly that they did." Schweizer's film features psychologist Robert Epstein, whose research claimed that people rated Google's top search results in 2016 as more positive to Hilary Clinton than to Donald Trump. Stossel says that it doesn't prove that Google's results were biased; it may just be that major media outlets ran more positive headlines about Clinton, and since Google's results rely on the major media, that would bring more positive Clinton headlines, even without any bias on Google's part. Even if Google's search algorithm is fair, major social media outlets do manipulate us by determining what we can not see. The film plays a clip of psychologist Jordan Peterson, who points out: "They’re not using unbiased algorithms to do things like search for unacceptable content on twitter and on YouTube and on Facebook -- those aren’t unbiased at all. They’re built specifically to filter out whatever’s bad." Stossel notes that Google and Facebook employ human content monitors -- some of whom despise conservatives -- to determine what is "bad." Peterson himself has reason to worry. After he criticized a Canadian law that would mandate use of people's preferred pronouns (like "Ze" or "Xir”), Google briefly shut down Peterson's Youtube channel. They even blocked him from his own Gmail account. "That’s a real problem," says Peterson. "You come to rely on these things and when the plug is pulled suddenly then that puts a big hole in your life." Stossel wonders: what can consumers do about possible social media manipulation or censorship? One speaker in Schweizer’s film says, “delete your accounts!” Stossel tells Schweizer: "I don’t want to delete my accounts -- and you can’t, without cutting yourself off from much of the best of the world." Schweizer admits that it's a challenge, but says he's switched to Google's competitors. For simple searches, Schweizer uses instead of Google. For email, Schweizer uses the encrypted service, based in Switzerland, rather than Gmail. The web browser "Brave" provides an alternative to Google's Chrome. Brave was founded by Brendan Eich, who created the browser Firefox but was then forced to leave his own company because he once donated to a ballot proposition against gay marriage. But most people won’t switch. Stossel hasn’t switched. He wonders if a few individuals switching will change much. "That’s all we have? A pathetic act that won’t make any difference?" he asks. Schweizer replies: "If people make clear to Google that they don’t like their manipulation, and they don’t like their invasion of privacy ... they will be forced to make changes. That’s part of the reason we love and support the market the way we do."



End Racial Preferences at Colleges?

John Stossel

Published on Jan 2, 2019

Asian Americans are suing Harvard for illegally discriminating against them

The lawsuit forced Harvard to release admissions data which reveal that admitted Asian applicants score 22 points higher on the SAT than whites and 63 points higher than blacks. Harvard admits to using race as a factor in admissions for the sake of diversity. But the school says it does so without any hard quotas or race-based points system -- that they merely consider it informally. Past Supreme Courts have allowed that. But the Asians suing Harvard argue that the university gives them artificially low personality ratings to keep their admissions rate down. They say Harvard treats Asian Americans as "boring little grade grubbers." Harvard's data show that a typical asian applicant is less than half as likely to get a good personality rating in Harvard's admissions process than a typical black applicant. Lee Cheng of the Asian American Legal Foundation says the data show clear, systematic discrimination based on race. "Harvard didn't just use race as one of many factors. It was the determinative factor," Cheng tells Stossel. Many experts say that Harvard's case may reach the Supreme Court. If it does, then the court -- with President Trump's new appointees -- might strike down all college racial preferences. Ending racial preferences would increase the share of Asian and white students in colleges, but decrease the share of black and hispanic students. Harry Holzer, an economist and Harvard Alum who studies affirmative action, says that would be a big mistake. "When you have a long history of discrimination based on race, you have to take race into account," Holzer tells Stossel. But Cheng says Harvard's preferences don’t help disadvantaged people. “Race based affirmative action helps rich people ... Seventy percent of the students of every ethnic group at Harvard come from the top 20 percent of family income," Cheng tells Stossel. Holzer responds: "It's okay ... race in America matters at any level of income." But Cheng responds that when wealthy people use race to get a leg up, poor whites and poor Asians get hurt. He first became passionate about racial discrimination when he faced it in high school. San Francisco had a strict racial quota for admission to the Lowell public magnet high school. Because there were many Chinese kids in the area, Cheng and other Chinese Americans had to score higher than kids of other races. "I was just shocked," Cheng tells Stossel. "I was just taught in civics and history that in America everybody was supposed to be equal under the law." Cheng got in, but he says he saw many of his friends get left behind because of racial preferences. "The kids who were negatively affected ... were the kids of the dishwashers and the seamstresses and who lived in Chinatown, who were very poor." Cheng eventually sued San Francisco and forced them to end their quotas. Now he hopes the lawsuit against Harvard will do the same to universities. "I have three kids," Cheng says. "I'll be damned if I'm going to not fight very, very hard to make sure that they don't get treated as second class citizens in the land in which they were born."



Media Hype Questionable Gun Control Study

John Stossel

Published on Dec 14, 2018

Dozens of news outlets reported that America has the most mass shooters in the world. Many say that shows America needs more gun control

 CNN claimed that "the U.S. has the most mass shootings". The WSJ reported that "U.S. leads the world in mass shootings." Nearly every major media outlet and former President Obama said the same. But the claim is based on just one study, and the author of that study, Adam Lankford, would not release his data to other gun reseachers in the field. Economist John Lott argues that Lankford's study has many flaws. Lott is the author of the books “More Guns, Less Crime” and “Bias against Guns.” His son, Maxim Lott, works for Stossel TV. Stossel says because of that, he repeatedly asked Lankford to show him the study data that he would not reveal to Lott. But Lankford would not disclose it to Stossel either. Lankford claimed to find "complete data" for all mass shootings in 171 countries from 1966 to 2012. But Lott notes that Lankford doesn’t reveal basic details about how he found shootings in so many countries -- most of which don’t speak English. And most of those years, those countries didn’t have the internet. Lott argues that finding complete data for mass shooters in just one developing country, such as India, would be an incredible feat, as many shootings would be reported only in local outlets in the local language. U.S. mass shootings, on the other hand, are well-documented and hard to miss. Lott says that if Lankford missed foreign cases but found all the U.S. ones, his paper’s entire conclusion that the US has the most mass shooters could fall apart. Lankford has declined to answer questions about how he searched for foreign-language cases. Did Lankford miss foreign cases? Because Lankford would not release his data, Lott and the think tank he runs -- the Crime Prevention Research Center -- compiled their own count of mass shooters. (His paper is at ) Lott counted more than 3,000 cases around the world -- several times more than the 202 cases Lankford found. Lott found 15 times more, despite the fact that he only looked for shootings in the last 15 years, whereas Lankford looked at 46 years. Lott attempted to use the same definition of "mass shooter" that Lankford used, although that’s difficult. In Lankford's paper, Lankford says he excludes "sponsored terrorism" but does not define what he means by that. To be safe, Lott removed all terrorism cases from his data. When he did that that, he still found 709 shooters around the world -- more than 3 times what Lankford found. Gun control advocates have used the Lankford study to argue that mass shootings are caused by the comparatively high gun ownership rate in the U.S. But when Lankford's data are fixed, Lott says, there is no longer any correlation between gun ownership rate and mass shootings. Lott concludes: "There is a lesson here. Lankford’s critical but simple error could have been picked up if journalists had only demanded his data and methods before publicizing his study.” That’s something journalists rarely do. Lott adds: "Journalists should learn to be skeptical... and in the meantime, we should all be skeptical of news coverage of studies like this -- that simply confirm what journalists and people want to hear."


Stossel’s Book recommendations on Liberty

Stossel's Stocking Stuffers

John Stossel

Published on Dec 11, 2018

Holiday season is here. To help your friends or family learn about liberty, why not give them a book

John Stossel has some ideas. First, there's The Road to Serfdom. In it, Friedrich Hayek explains why government intervention in the economy leads to serfdom. He explains why no central planner can allocate resources as well as individuals can. Stossel says this is a great book for your socialist friends -- if they are willing to read it. They might not be, Stossel says, because language is old. Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics is more current. Sowell explains that trade is not a zero-sum game -- it's not as if one country wins and another loses. Both sides benefit. Stossel suggests that someone should give Sowell’s book to our President. Another myth-busting book is The Myth of the Robber Barons. Historian Burton Folsom explains that Cornelius Vanderbilt and John D. Rockefeller didn’t get rich by robbing people. They got rich by creating better things. Another good book that will educate someone about basic economics is Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman. Stossel also briefly mentions a bonus book by a former clueless, lefty, big-government loving reporter who finally woke up to the benefits of markets. That book is Give Me a Break. Prefer fiction? Stossel recommends two classics, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Animal Farm by George Orwell. Any of these books, Stossel says, would make a great Christmas gift.


Google and Facebook Cross "The Creepy Line"

John Stossel

Published on Dec 4, 2018

Companies like Google and Facebook collect information about us and sell it to advertisers.

The information they collect and the way they collect it cross the "creepy line” according to a new documentary called "The Creepy Line.” John Stossel asks the writer of the documentary, Peter Schweizer: “What’s the big deal? They're giving me information.” Schweizer responds “to the extent that somebody can do something for you, they can do something to you.” He goes on to make a powerful case that Google and Facebook abuse their power. The documentary says that Google tracks you even when you are not online. As soon as you connect to the internet, Android uploads to Google a complete history of where you’ve been that day. Schweizer wants Google and Facebook to be regulated like media companies. Stossel is skeptical "You want regulation? That's going to make it better?” he asks. Schweizer answers: “one of the ways you deal with Google's market concentration, and its massive control of search is, put it under the same shackles [as] other media companies.” Stossel doesn’t presume to know what, if anything, ought to be done about Google and Facebook. But he says that the documentary makes a compelling case that these giant companies do creepy things.


Socialism Leads To Violence

John Stossel

Published on Nov 27, 2018

Socialism is now cool in some circles. Newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praises "Democratic Socialism" and told comedian Stephen Colbert, "in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live

 Colbert ate it up. "Seems pretty simple!" he replied, to cheers from his audience. But socialism shouldn't be cool, Gloria Alvarez reported recently, noting that it wrecks economies. In this video she points out that it also leads to government using force against its own citizens. Regimes that call themselves socialist have killed millions of people. Tens of millions were killed in the USSR. Same in China. Millions also died in Cambodia and North Korea, which claimed to follow socialist ideals. Today’s socialist say that those countries didn't do "real" socialism. They promise that their experiment will be different, and better. "Democratic socialists" like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez certainly promise to avoid anything like the horrors of previous self-described socialist governments. But Alvarez says that socialism, whatever the variant, tends to turn out the same way. Right now, people die in Latin American countries that fell for socialism's promises. In Cuba, because government restricts private property and trade, Cubans trade on the black market to survive. Sometimes government violently cracks down on them. Alvarez interviews Ibis Valdes, who says: "my father was a political prisoner [in Cuba] for almost a decade ... because in his 20s he sold soaps and perfumes and did not want to relinquish all of his profits to the government." Michel Ibarra, who escaped Cuba, says: "Socialism is the perfect excuse for someone who wants to rule an authoritarian regime." Political violence in the name of socialism also occurred in Nicaragua and Venezuela. Alvarez interviews Ramón Muchacho, a former mayor of a section of Venezuela's capital city, Caracas. He tell Alvarez that he was pressured by socialist leaders to use his police force to brutally suppress protests against the regime. Because he refused, he was threatened with jail. He fled to America. "It seems to me we are not able to learn," Ramón Muchacho tells Alvarez. "[Politicians] will always be dreaming about the future and never delivering. People keep falling in love with that kind of crap." Alvarez hopes that some will learn. Gustavo Tefel, who fled violence in Nicaragua tells her that he did. "I don’t think [people] realize how deep socialism is involved in all [the violence]... America is a great country. People really don't appreciate it much ... they should travel a little more to poor countries to really get a feeling for what they have here in the United States. Just look around, you know, and really get some knowledge."


Let Them Vape

John Stossel

Published on Nov 20, 2018

Our government says e-cigarettes/vaping is the latest "epidemic" among teens. So the FDA says they will restrict them. Cities across the country are banning e-cigarette use in public.

But e-cigarettes help smokers quit traditional cigarettes. Michelle Minton of the Competitive Enterprise Institute tells John Stossel that people have misconceptions about e-cigarettes. “It's about 95% less harmful than a normal traditional cigarette.” That’s because e-cigarettes let people get a hit of nicotine without actually burning tobacco. The burning of paper and tobacco leaves is what makes cigarettes so dangerous. Minton admits that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive. But she says, “on the spectrum of drugs that you can become addicted to, nicotine and caffeine are very similar to each other.” The Surgeon General says there are other health risks to vaping: “Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients.” Despite the dangers, researchers seem to agree that e-cigarettes are substantially less dangerous than combustible cigarettes. Other studies concluded that long-term e-cigarette use is “associated with substantially reduced levels of measured carcinogens and toxicants relative to cigarette-only smoking.” Nevertheless, the FDA threatens to crack down to discourage kids from using e-cigarettes. Minton says that is a bad idea: “Do we want children to become addicted to anything? No ... But keeping a small percent of teenagers from trying e-cigarettes is not worth sacrificing adults whose lives could be saved.”


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