Groundbreaking New Drug Successfully Suppresses Huntington’s Protein In Human Trial

In what is thought to be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases in the last 50 years, researchers have created a drug that may one day slow the progression of Huntington’s disease

A tragic neurodegenerative disease, Huntington’s is caused in most people by a single genetic mutation, although a small number of others do develop the genetic fault through random mutation. The gene in question codes for a protein known as huntingtin that builds up in the brain, causing the progressive degeneration of the nervous system and significantly harming movement, learning, thinking, and emotions.

The new drug is designed to disrupt the expression of this faulty gene, preventing the production of huntingtin and thus hopefully slowing the onset of the disease.

Known as IONIS-HTTRx, the drug does not target the gene itself, but is instead a piece of synthesized genetic code that binds to the piece of messenger RNA that transports the information needed to build huntingtin around the cell. By doing this, the drug destroys the messenger molecule before the damaged proteins form. The researchers were able to dramatically cut the levels of this protein found in the brain.

It is important to stress that the trials carried out so far were not looking at whether or not the new treatment prevented the symptoms of the disease from progressing, so the researchers cannot say unequivocally that it works. Instead, they were looking at the level of the toxic protein found in the nervous system.

They found that the level of the toxic protein in the brain was linked to the dose of the medicine, suggesting that the new drug does indeed target the manufacturing of the protein as expected. This is coupled with the fact that the drug had no adverse effects and was seemingly safe.

“The results of this trial are of ground-breaking importance for Huntington’s disease patients and families,” explains University College London’s Professor Sarah Tabrizi, who led the research, in a statement. “For the first time a drug has lowered the level of the toxic disease-causing protein in the nervous system, and the drug was safe and well-tolerated. The key now is to move quickly to a larger trial to test whether the drug slows disease progression.”

The trials began in late 2015, when 46 patients with early Huntington’s disease started their treatment with the experimental drug. The procedure at the moment is unfortunately pretty invasive, requiring injections directly into the spinal fluid itself.

Trials are expected to start looking at whether the drug does slow the onset soon, and expectations are high. There is also hope that the methodology can be applied to other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzhiemer’s and Parkinson’s. 


Read more:

18 Traditions That Make No Sense (That We Do Anyway)

We’re making memes smarter. So can you. Visit the Photoplasty and Pictofacts Workshop to get started.

Traditions are a beautiful thing. The thing is, if you think too closely about literally any of them, they stop making sense. For example …


Entry by Scott Laffey

by Scott Laffey


Entry by Timon DJ Spaji

by Timon DJ Spaji

Read more:

GE Ventures unveils new blood collection startup Drawbridge Health

Drawbridge Health wants to make it easier for doctor’s offices and clinics to collect small samples of your blood for testing on site with a handheld device.

The device uses proprietary technology to collect and stabilize just a few drops of blood for various tests like hormone levels, genetic testing, monitoring disease and other things patients normally have to get done at an outside lab like Quest Diagnostics or Lab Corp.

Instead, the device can stay in the clinic and the proprietary Drawbridge cartridge holding your blood would be shipped out to the third-party lab for results.

Of course, any blood diagnostics startup claiming to collect just a few drops of blood for testing on a small device is going to get compared to Theranos, which first promised to deliver results for hundreds of diseases on a single drop of blood. It’s an understatement to say things didn’t go so well for that startup and it seems it may now be running out of cash.

However, GE Ventures partner Risa Stack, who was instrumental in guiding the idea for Drawbridge says, unlike Theranos, Drawbridge only collects the blood. It doesn’t do the testing.

“Partners are going to run the tests on our stabilized samples. Our responsibility is to give them a quality sample,” Stack told TechCrunch.

GE Ventures started the company through an old school VC method of first coming up with the idea in house, with the promise of launching and funding the startup as it progresses.

The idea probably sounds fantastic to anyone who hates going to the doctor and then going out to a lab for blood work. The device also promises minimal discomfort for those who hate needles as it takes just a few drops from your upper arm. I’m told it feels like less than a pinch.

But first Drawbridge needs to get through a few hurdles. It’s early days for Drawbridge and it is just now exploring partnerships with clinics and doctor’s offices.

It will also need to go through FDA approval, which it has applied for as a medical device.

This summer GE Ventures hired on Lee McCracken to run the ship as CEO at Drawbridge and the startup intends on a commercial launch next year, pending that FDA approval.

Of course, there are other approaches to cutting out the blood collection middleman — both One Medical and Forward have in-house labs where patients can get blood work done.

There are also other blood prick diagnostics out in the medical field but, as McCracken points out, those, like Theranos, come with potential risk.

“The current sample testing process is inconvenient and challenging for patients and medical providers, alike,” McCracken said in a statement. “It requires clinical processing equipment, often a technician specifically trained to draw blood, plus a trip to the doctor’s office or hospital. By combining world class technology developed by GE Healthcare and a talented founding team to address an important market need, Drawbridge Health is well positioned to transform diagnostic testing for healthcare stakeholders, testing laboratories, patients and consumers.”

Read more:

This mom’s journey through divorce and illness reminds us why single moms are heroes.

Being a single parent can be tough. It can be even tougher when you’re coping with serious health issues.

Allison Brown and her husband have been separated for some time, but they co-parented their son, Jed, equally up until two years ago.

Simultaneously she has antiphospholipid syndrome, which makes her prone to blood clots, and as such, she’s already had two pulmonary embolisms — one right after Jed was born.

It was also recently discovered that she has a genetic oddity on the BRACA2 gene and a family history of breast cancer, so she’s made the decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy in 2018.

Allison and Jed Brown. All photos via Allison Brown.

Jed wants to be with her in the hospital, and while she’s always been open with him about her health issues, this feels like uncharted territory. He’s been with her through illnesses before, but this surgery will change how she looks and no doubt have an emotional impact, so she’s apprehensive about letting him see the aftermath.

“I’m not entirely sure what the ‘right’ thing to do is,” Allison writes in an email, “but I go back to one of our family reminders: We can do what we can do. And sometimes we can do hard things.”

As it turns out, Allison isn’t alone in her concern. Many families struggle with knowing what the “right” thing to do is, but they still manage to #familygreatly.

Family Greatly

Myth: There’s one perfect way to family.
Truth: There’s a billion ways to #FamilyGreatly.

Posted by Kraft Brand on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The truth is, there isn’t one “right way” to be a parent. And, through her relationship with her son, Allison’s come to realize that.

She cherishes Jed, and together they’ve successfully navigated some difficult times. But mostly she tries to savor every moment with him that she can.

“He is kind, he is moral and thoughtful, he is just a lovely person a lot of the time,” writes Allison. “He is working hard to be responsible and I really appreciate that. I think we are very close, in part because we are a household of two, in part because I’m pretty unflappable.”

Jed on the soccer team.

Of course, as Jed grows up, she’s realizing he doesn’t need her as much. It’s a hard reality, but she knows it’s what needs to happen.

“I know I’m not all he could ever need nor should I be anymore,” explains Allison. “Life is bigger, and his world is wider.”

But even though Jed’s a teenager now, they’ve maintained their tight bond thanks to a few unique traditions.

For example, every night at dinner, they hold hands and share a “moment of gratitude,” which can be anything that happened in their day that they’re grateful for. Since Allison can’t be there all the time, it’s a great way for them to reconnect.

She also makes sure to be there for all the big events, like Jed’s soccer games and choir concerts.

She wishes she could be around more often to encourage him to stop staring at phone/computer/television screens all day, but that’s likely a struggle that would exist whether she worked or not.

Jed and Allison Brown.

And really, at the end of the day, Allison believes she is enough for Jed because she’s proud of the man he is becoming.

“The world is big, and there are a million ways to be successful and measure success,” she writes.

Time with your kids goes by fast — Allison knows this better than most. So instead of worrying about the future, she hopes parents, like herself, can stay in the present with them as long as they can. After all, that’s what truly matters with family.

Life may throw you curveballs along the way, but as long as you can come back and share a moment with your kids, you’re nailing parenthood.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a family of two or 10, if you’re celebrating around a big Christmas tree or eating leftover pizza while watching your favorite show — if you’re spending time together, that’s what makes a great family.

This holiday season, Allison and Jed will be taking their traditional trip to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago to see the lights festival. It’s just something that makes the month of December a little more special for them.

Families are made by these traditions that make them unique, no matter how big or small they are. And that uniqueness outshines perfection every day of the week.

Read more:

Tony Blair confirms he is working to reverse Brexit

Former PM argues claims made by leave campaign now clearly untrue and so British voters deserve second referendum

Tony Blair has confirmed that he is trying to reverse Brexit, arguing that voters deserve a second referendum because the 350m per week for the NHS promise has now been exposed as untrue.

In an interview with the BBC Radio 4s The World This Weekend on Sunday, the former prime minister said that what was happening to the crumbling NHS was a national tragedy and that it was now very clear that the Vote Leave promise about Brexit leading to higher NHS spending would not be honoured.

When the facts change, I think people are entitled to change their mind, said Blair, who has always been a strong opponent of Brexit but who has rarely been so explicit about being on a personal mission to stop it happening.

Asked if his purpose in relation to Brexit was to reverse it, Blair replied: Yes, exactly so.

He added: My belief is that, in the end, when the country sees the choice of this new relationship, it will realise that its either going to be something that does profound damage to the country, or alternatively, having left the European Union, left the single market, we will try and by some means recreate the benefit of that in some new relationship, in which case I think many people will think, Whats the point?

Blair rejected the argument that he was defying the will of the people. The will of the people is not something immutable. People can change their mind if the circumstances change, he said.

Read more:

Surprise, the tax plan is terrible for women

Early Saturday morning, Senate Republicans eked out a narrow win for their widely discredited tax bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, with 52 of the party’s senators voting in its favor and just one joining 48 Democratic lawmakers in a no vote.

Like so many of the GOP’s congressional maneuvers, the plan promises to be especially disastrous for women. Not only does it threaten to raise taxes on all but the very wealthy, it also takes unwarranted aim at both the social safety nets and the reproductive health services Republicans couldn’t manage to tank with their attempted Affordable Care Act repeal.

“This is bad medicine, bad policy, and not what Americans want,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund Vice President Dawn Laguens said in a statement. “Ultimately, women and their families will be hurt the most.”

GOP leaders are so hell-bent on undermining the healthcare of millions, they are sneaking it into a tax bill,” she added. “Attacks on health coverage have no place in any legislation, especially not in a tax bill.”

The bill’s passage was a rush job, even by recent Republican standards—the final almost-500-page iteration presented before the Senate had impactful edits handwritten into the margins. Last week, however, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its report on the legislation, finding that it would add $1.4 trillion to the national deficit over the coming 10 years. As the Washington Post reported, the bill promises a gradual but very real financial loss for those making under $75,000 per year, while people in higher income brackets—$100,000 and up, plus big corporations—stand to accrue gains.

While not unexpected from congressional Republicans, this imbalanced equation comes as the direct result of trimming the Obama-era individual mandate, or the tax penalty imposed on most of those who don’t buy insurance. Without the mandate in place, the CBO predicts a mass exodus from the insurance market as healthy people decline coverage, driving up premiums by an estimated 10 percent for most years in the next decade. The report also estimates that 4 million fewer people will have health insurance by 2019, that number climbing to 13 million by the end of 2027. The reason? Low-income earners who have been awarded tax credits up until now (to blunt the financial blow of insurance) won’t be able to afford anything at all.

Currently, qualifying low-income applicants can rely on Medicaid to access medical services, but adding over $1 trillion to the deficit will require budget cuts elsewhere, and recent experience offers some clues as to what will land on the chopping block: Social security, Medicare, and Medicaid—all welfare programs the GOP has been itching to scrap for years and targeting with special vehemence in the months since Trump’s inauguration.

When you put all of this together, you get a clusterfuck for women, who are not only paid less than men across the board, but also more likely than men to occupy low- and minimum-wage jobs—especially if they are women of color—and more likely to occupy the tax brackets hardest hit by the GOP’s plan. What’s more, minimum-wage jobs don’t tend to offer benefits—healthcare must be procured through other avenues, like the ACA’s state marketplaces. When we talk about low-income people fleeing those exchanges, we are talking in part about a huge pool of women who want to stay insured but suddenly find themselves unable to afford health insurance and thus simply drop their plans.

Which is a shame, because measurably more women have signed up for healthcare since it became accessible. In 2016, the number of uninsured U.S. women came in at half what it was in 2010, when the ACA became law. Before that point, insurance companies charged women higher premiums than they did men, simply because women may need services like maternity care and contraception. In identifying essential health benefits insurers must cover, the ACA enabled women of very modest means to go to the doctor.

Part of that enabling involved expanding Medicaid qualifications in participating states to include single young women whose incomes registered at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Now, the roughly 40 million women on Medicaid—who, again, are disproportionately women of color—make up 53 percent of patients in the program, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Medicaid also happens to pay for 75 percent of all government-funded family planning services: contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), pap smears, and sexual health counseling.   

We know that access to contraception keeps unintended pregnancy rates low: Obstructing that access means more women—particularly low-income women—will become mothers. There, too, the Republican tax plan gouges them. As the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) points out, the bill cuts personal and dependent deductions, and while it does double the child tax credit—from $1,000 to $2,000—that increase won’t help low-income parents, because the credit is no longer fully refundable. By the NWLC’s reckoning, someone who makes an annual $14,500 can now hope to receive a $75 credit for their child, but the situation will be quite different for wealthier parents. As certified public accountant Tony Nitti explained in a Forbes op-ed, the plan extends Child Tax Credit (CTC) eligibility to single people making $250,000 per year, substantially higher than the old $75,000 earning cap. People in this much higher income bracket will see returns from the CTC, along with lower tax rates over time.

This latest legislative slap stings particularly because Republicans seem to really want women having babies, continually engineering policy that places basic reproductive healthcare out of reach, works to shutter abortion clinics, and winnows access to contraception—each and every time reserving the heaviest blow for low-income women and women of color. Even the tax bill takes a subtly anti-abortion tack: It includes language that allows prospective parents to set up untaxed college savings plans for “an unborn child,” which is to say, “a child in utero”—or another means of undermining national law, which clearly states that a fetus does not gain human rights until the third trimester of its stay in the womb.

After a year of large-scale losses, the party in power needed a win, and a tax overhaul represented their final chance—especially since, to the average voter, tax legislation seems like a much duller and complex issue than repealing Obamacare. Now, the Senate and House must reconcile their marginally different versions into a single plan to place before the president. It seems unrealistic to hope that they might take a moment to more thoroughly familiarize themselves with their indecipherably annotated 479-page document and prioritize the health and wealth of the country’s people at the expense of their sole legislative victory. But especially for Republican voters, the party’s consistent placement of political gains before actual people should be telling.

“As a doctor, I care about families and their healthcare, and this bill makes it harder for everyday people to stay healthy and raise a family,” Dr. Anne Davis, consulting medical director of Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “My patients need Congress to stop playing politics with their health.” 

Read more:

Dont Stop the Presses! When Local News Struggles, Democracy Withers

Thomas Peele’s friend keeps bugging him. “Are you going to win?” the friend writes over Facebook. “I think you’re going to win.” “What are you going to do when you win?” “Shut up,” Peele thinks. He’s an old-school watchdog reporter. Blue eyes that bore into you. Fewer words, better.

It’s a Monday in April, and Peele and his colleagues at the East Bay Times, a newspaper in Oakland, California, are waiting to find out whether they’ve won the biggest award in journalism. For five months the paper has been reporting on the fallout of a fire that killed 36 people when it ripped through an Oakland warehouse known as the Ghost Ship. Illegally converted into artist residences, the building had a tangled layout that made it hard to escape. The Times’ coverage has painted the tragedy—Oakland’s deadliest fire—as symptomatic of the city’s lax fire-code enforcement and its affordable-housing crisis.

Peele wonders if he should have bought a case of champagne; he saw a sale at the grocery store over the weekend. No, best he didn’t. You don’t want to jinx these things. They probably won’t win anyway. He tells himself the newsroom would have gotten a heads-up, right? While he sits in his cubicle, psyching himself down for defeat, two colleagues, David DeBolt and Matthias Gafni, busy themselves with a story about another fire, one that killed four people.

Finally, a few minutes before noon, the staff gathers around Gafni’s laptop for the announcement: “For coverage of the fatal Ghost Ship fire in Oakland, California, the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting goes to the staff of the East Bay Times.” Exultation. Now champagne is needed, stat. And cigars. As the reporters saunter down Broadway with stogies, Peele runs into a friend who starts shouting at random people on the street: “These guys just won the Pulitzer Prize!” he tells construction workers. “These guys just won the Pulitzer Prize!”

A week later, Bay Area News Group, the paper’s corporate owner, announces it will be firing many of its copy editors and designers. This comes as a surprise to approximately nobody.

Bay Area News Group reporter Matthias Gafni works on a story about the one-year anniversary of the Ghost Ship fire from the newsroom in Oakland, California.

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

Since the beginning of this century, as much as 80 percent of the money that used to go to newspaper advertising has ended up not far from the East Bay Times’ offices—in the pockets of tech giants reposing in Mountain View and Menlo Park. Has this upended media? Yes. For the worse? That’s the better question.

It was for only a relatively brief period, roughly between the 1890s and 1950s, that newspapers controlled advertising in this country. Because newspapers owned the printing presses, local businesses had no choice but to take out ads in their pages. There was nothing exactly natural about this arrangement, and there was nothing exactly natural about what happened next: the emergence of TV and then, more consequentially, the internet. By temperament slow to adapt, journalists did little to attract fast-moving advertisers away from the new data-harvesting potential of Google’s AdSense and DoubleClick and, later, Facebook.

Even when papers finally went online and started making gains in digital advertising—thanks in part to reader-alienating innovations like clickbait—it wasn’t enough to make up for the losses in print ads. Between 2004 and 2016, Google’s revenue—most of which comes from advertising—grew from $3.2 billion to $89.5 billion. In that same period, the amount local businesses spent on print newspaper ads fell from $44.4 billion to $12.9 billion. According to Borrell Associates, a Virginia-based research firm that tracks local ad spending, within five years very few local papers will have the resources to publish daily. Today nearly all new digital ad revenue goes to Google and Facebook, leaving only crumbs for the rest of the publishing industry.

But something happened in November 2016 that has the potential to disrupt this trend yet again. After Donald Trump’s election as president, liberal pols, conservative blowhards, and media magoos turned their ire on Silicon Valley, excoriating the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter for their role in disseminating preelection (dis)information. In October a Senate panel grilled executives from all three companies about political ads bought by a pro-Russia agency—some of which reached more than 126 million Facebook users.

Bay Area News Group reporter David DeBolt, who was part of the Pulitzer Prize–winning team that reported on Oakland’s deadly Ghost Ship fire.

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

A week after the East Bay Times won a Pulitzer Prize, the paper’s corporate owners announced a round of layoffs.

Erin Brethauer

Of course, tech is never without “fixes.” Google announced it had tweaked its search algorithm to suppress bogus stories. Craigslist’s Craig Newmark debuted WikiTribune, billed as a “platform for evidence-based journalism.” Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project to work more closely with publishers. In a 5,500-word manifesto, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote, “There is more we must do to support the news industry,” including “growing local news.” It seemed as if it had dawned on Dr. Frankenstein what, exactly, he had wrought. Seemed.

Perhaps these initiatives will benefit big-name institutions like The New York Times or The Washington Post (which Amazon CEO and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos bought in 2013), outlets with the clout and resources to play ball with Big Tech while surviving on flashy partnerships and paywalls that require subscribers to kick them some money for digital access. It’s less clear how Zuckerbergian interventions will “grow” local reporting like that of the East Bay Times—especially when seemingly future-proofed digital brands like DNAinfo and Gothamist (and satellites SFist, LAist, and so on) can’t survive. Earlier this year, after reporters at those outlets voted to unionize, their parent company’s owner shut them all down, citing the “tremendous effort and expense” needed to keep them running.

Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt once told The New York Times’ Miguel Helft that he thought Google had a “moral imperative” to reimburse publishers beset by falling revenue. That was in 2009. No such reimbursements have been made. (In 2014 Google did launch an ad exchange with a consortium of local newspapers.) Only now are journalists more forcefully trying to hold Google and Facebook to account. In a recent interview with Time, Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, said: “I think it’s high time that Facebook and Google created a vast philanthropy fund to fund journalism. They have stolen so much.”

In July the News Media Alliance, which represents almost 2,000 news outlets, asked Congress to allow it to negotiate with Google and Facebook. (Doing so without congressional approval would violate antitrust regulations.) David Chavern, president and CEO of the group, hopes tech and the media can come to agreements over “revenue sharing, data sharing, subscription support, and brand support.”

So far this year Alphabet has spent $13.6 million on lobbying, not a dime of which seems to be going to support Chavern’s cause. “I would be surprised if lobbyists for Google and Facebook would be supportive” of the alliance’s petition, he says. “I haven’t asked them.” Inquiries to two dozen lobbying groups that worked for Google in the quarter after the petition, and seven groups for Facebook, yielded little. “This has not come across my radar at all,” said one Google lobbyist who had heard of the petition, “and they’re not shy about things we need to work on.”

So one day in June I fly down to Phoenix to discover the future of local news. At the self-contained fiefdom that is the JW Marriott Desert Ridge, the Institute for Nonprofit News is holding its annual conference. This is some serious next-level journalistic nerdery. Editors and publishers from nonprofit news startups across the country are gathered to talk shop. Many in the industry think the future of local news is nonprofit. The conference feels like the dawn of … something. It’s surprisingly upbeat. As one attendee puts it, “It’s like being in television in 1947”—except without the promise of oodles of moola. While it’s true that the future of the East Bay Times and other local papers looks grim, maybe something here can save them.

That something might be found in the Grand Sonoran I room, where Josh Mabry and Dorrine Mendoza, representatives of the Facebook Journalism Project, give a presentation to journalists involved in nonprofit ventures. It mostly amounts to an Instant Articles sales pitch—using Facebook as a publisher for your content. During the Q&A, I ask the Facebook reps a version of the Miguel Helft question: Given that Facebook is one of two companies reaping nearly all new digital ad revenue, are there any considerations within the company to give some of that revenue back to content creators? A few people start clapping. Mabry seems slightly taken aback. He begins to talk about how great it is that his company allows publishers to collect ad money from videos on Facebook. He also mentions the revenue possible through branded content and sponsored content—essentially ads designed to look like they could be articles—on Facebook. The Q&A moves on.

Afterward I buttonhole Mabry to press him on how, exactly, local news providers—modest outfits like the East Bay Times—can take advantage of the opportunities Facebook provides. I suggest that videos and sponsored content provide substantial revenue only if a publisher is a New York Times, which has a team of professional videographers as well as T Brands, a studio staffed by people whose sole job is to create sponsored content. I posit that this formula won’t work for a vast majority of papers across the country. You don’t want your local health care reporter writing Merck ad copy. Nor is it very useful to have your city hall reporter taking shitty video of the Pumpkin Festival that nobody will watch by virtue of its very shittiness. He concedes that I do have a point. Then he starts talking about automated videos Facebook produces that wish you a happy birthday.

Cecily Burt, a Bay Area News Group editor in the East Bay Times office in Oakland.

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

Bay Area News Group is currently working to roll out a metered system in the coming weeks that will limit the number of articles nonsubscribers can see online.

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

San Jose. Warm, springy day in August. Trees, leafy. Laptops in Starbucks a-taptaptapping away. Around the corner from Bay Area News Group HQ, Hank Coca’s Downtown Furniture store is having a sale. Everything up to 80 percent off! In April, Hank died. Now the shop he founded in 1957 is closing. Somehow the fate of Hank C’s Downtown Furniture seems not entirely unrelated to the state of the East Bay Times. Symptoms of the same malady.

Neil Chase, executive editor of Bay Area News Group (which we can call BANG!), sits in his office in a purple-gray button-down, sleeves rolled up. Front pages of the San Jose Mercury News—JFK assassination, 9/11, Obama election—grace the wall. In April 2016, BANG merged the San Jose and San Mateo County papers into one—now it’s just called the Mercury News. At the same time, the company announced that four other papers—the Oakland Tribune; the Contra Costa Times, in Walnut Creek; the Daily Review, in Hayward; and The Argus, in Fremont—would become the East Bay Times. That left one paper for all of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which combined are home to more than 2.7 million people, about the size of Chicago.

With declines in both print advertising and circulation, Chase says he’s focused on increasing revenue through digital subscriptions. Like every other paper across the nation, the income from digital ads doesn’t offset the fall in print ads and subscriptions. BANG is currently working to roll out a metered system in the coming weeks that will limit the number of articles nonsubscribers can see online—something many (mostly larger) papers across the country have already done, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Flipping through that day’s paper, Chase talks about sponsored print ads and points to the weather page, on which a termite-removal company has placed an advertisement. “Their business has to do with weather, so instead of just running their ads all over the paper, let’s let them sponsor the weather page, do some messaging that ties their product into weather,” he says. Perhaps your picture of innovation doesn’t exactly resemble a print ad on the weather page (itself quite an anachronism, considering the weather app on your phone). Chase admits the demands of the newsroom aren’t conducive to long-term thinking. “We’re not planning for 400 years from now,” he says. “We’re planning for next Tuesday.” He doesn’t have much choice.

BANG is owned by Digital First Media, headquartered in Denver and owned by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund headquartered in New York and owned by Randall Duncan Smith. Nobody owns Mr. Smith. In fact, nobody seems to know much about Mr. Smith. One of the few stories about him—a 1999 Village Voice takedown—quotes an acquaintance of his: “‘Randy is so rich he’s the kind of guy who divests himself every couple of years,’ so he doesn’t make the lists of the world’s richest people.” Two years ago, Alden tried to sell off Digital First to Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, for $400 million. Apollo declined. When I call Alden’s offices, the person who answers does a good job sounding sincere. “I know that Randy will definitely not give you an interview,” she says. “I don’t think anyone will talk to you.” This turns out to be true.

Alan Mutter, a former newspaper editor and digital media startup founder who lectures at UC Berkeley, wonders how much longer Digital First can last. “They’re running an ever-leaner business, and one of the signposts of that was the elimination of the individual papers,” he says, referring to the consolidation of the regional papers into the East Bay Times. “The question is, if this wasn’t a good enough solution to sustain the level of profitability that they’re looking for, at what point is it more trouble than it’s worth?”

When local newspapers disappear, civic engagement has been shown to decrease.

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

At some point, it’s worth asking who, besides journalists, actually cares about newspapers. Most Americans don’t read one. Only 20 percent of adults in the US get news regularly from a print paper, the Pew Research Center found last year; that drops to 5 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds. As Mutter argues, newspapers have “lost readership, revenue, and relevance.”

There was a time not too long ago when you might get off work and buy a paper to see how your stocks performed. “Now,” Mutter says, “I sit there all day long poking at my iPhone to see whether Apple stock is up 2 cents or down 2 cents.” If you glance through a smattering of local papers—in print or online—you’ll see that a lot of what they do hasn’t changed in 30-plus years. Why do so many local papers, the East Bay Times included, still have international and national sections, when the Post or the Times are a tap away? Why still include travel sections when TripAdvisor, NatGeo Traveler, and any number of other sites are easily accessible (and better)? Why does the business section still publish stock quotes when they’re out of date by the time they’re printed? Why why why?

Yet to dismiss newspapers as dinosaurs that deserve to die is to see a paper as somehow apart from the community it serves. Consider the Ghost Ship. After the fire, a civil suit brought by victims’ parents against the warehouse owners cited reporting done by the East Bay Times; the paper remains the only news outlet aggressively covering the incident. In December 2016 The New York Times made a big deal of the team of reporters it was sending to cover the tragedy in a series of stories; this year it has run two pieces in the series.

Even with bureaus in other cities—increasingly a rarity—national outlets simply can’t replace a local paper’s roots, argues DeBolt, one of the reporters on the Ghost Ship fire. “I have connections to the Ghost Ship through friends who lost friends,” he says. “They wanted the stories told by people who understand Oakland, who live here, who are their neighbors. Not by somebody who’s flying in from New York. Not to knock them, but we live here. We live and breathe the air, we know the neighborhoods, we know the people.” So what happens to a community in which nobody pays a DeBolt or Peele? What happens to a society in which an independent source of information simply disappears?

Up the road, in Oregon, there’s a man who studies such questions for a living. Lee Shaker, a professor at Portland State University, is one of a few American communications scholars to focus on local newspapers. (“From an academic perspective it’s not that great a career move,” he admits.) In 2009 he decided to look at what effect, if any, a newspaper’s closure had on its community. The year before, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer shuttered its print operations and Denver’s Rocky Mountain News went out of business. (That left The Seattle Times and The Denver Post.) He compared 2008 and 2009 government data that asked citizens a range of “civic engagement” questions, from whether they had contacted a public official in the previous year to how often they shared a meal with family members.

“What my research showed was that, in those two cities, civic engagement declined in a statistically significant way from 2008 to 2009, but across basically the other largest 20 cities in the United States there was no significant decrease in civic engagement,” Shaker says. This held true even after controlling for variables such as differences in the city’s economies. “Only in those two cities was there any evidence that civic engagement declined.” This suggested a causal relationship. “Other cities had no newspaper closures. Those cities had newspaper closures.”

Critically, Shaker’s research suggests that the decline in local news affects far more people than just those in the media. “You can kind of see this cascading series of consequences,” Shaker says. Here’s the scenario, as he describes it: “If people don’t get local news, they don’t know what’s going on in their community. If they don’t know what’s going on in their community, they don’t get involved in their community. If they’re not involved in their community, and others aren’t involved in their community, their government may not actually function very well. If people aren’t involved at the local level, and they don’t know what’s going on, and the government’s not performing at the local level, they start to lose trust. And when they start to lose trust, they start to have concerns about whether or not democracy is working, whether the government is working. And those feelings are naturally then extended to the national government.”

Other findings support such a claim. According to a 2015 study by Jennifer Lawless of American University and Danny Hayes of George Washington University, less—and less substantial—coverage of local elections has a deleterious impact on political participation and knowledge. The results suggest this holds true across the spectrum of political knowledge, even for news junkies. "I think there are damning consequences for civic engagement," Lawless says about the decline of local papers. "We're moving further away from full democratic participation and accountability."

In other words, it's possible that further losses in news at the local level could lead to even greater misunderstanding and confusion about what's going on around you. What’s happening in your town, your life. Frustration deepens, isolation increases. You take your anger out at the polls. Or nowhere at all.

Such mistrust in governmental institutions has been building for some time now. Recently a sense of discontent seems to have reached fever pitch in Oakland. In the spring an East Bay Times editorial—citing reporting by Peele, Gafni, and DeBolt that revealed 80 percent of fire code violations referred by firefighters were never inspected—began: “There seems no end to Oakland’s government dysfunction.”

In the spring an East Bay Times editorial began: “There seems no end to Oakland’s government dysfunction.”

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

Four days earlier, columnist Otis R. Taylor of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that “Oakland appears to be breaking down,” expressing frustration at the city’s growing tent communities, house fires, crumbling roads, and police department scandals. Days before the city’s deadline to approve its budget, protesters disrupted the city council meeting, forcing a delay. Some chained themselves to the dais. At the last council meeting before the summer recess, I witnessed members of a local union march through City Hall chanting, “What do we want? A people’s budget!”

Whatever fate befalls the East Bay Times is one that will play out in major cities and small towns across the country. Digital First owns the Orange County Register, in Santa Ana, California; the Daily Record, in Cañon City, Colorado; the Press & Guide, in Dearborn, Michigan; The Record, in Troy, New York; the Sentinel & Enterprise, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts; The Trentonian, in Trenton, New Jersey; The Morning Journal, in Lorain, Ohio; The Reporter, in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Dozens more.

It comes back to advertising—or its lack. These papers would have once been propped up by local businesses, a symbiosis that sustained commerce and journalism alike. Businesses such as Hank Coca’s Downtown Furniture. The quickening death of America’s newspapers, and the communities around them, may be one of the more profound stories of our time—and it’s one the papers themselves are neither inclined nor equipped to cover. “The East Bay Times is a pillar of local journalism for much of the Bay Area,” says Carl Hall, executive officer of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, which represents employees at the Times, among other papers. “And if the pillar is not there, it sounds like something’s going to collapse, doesn’t it?”

Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt once told The New York Times’ Miguel Helft that he thought Google had a “moral imperative” to reimburse publishers beset by falling revenue. No such reimbursements have been made.

Erin Brethauer for WIRED

Nobody has bothered to change the sign. On a drab office building in downtown Oakland, “Oakland Tribune,” in Old English font, looks out on Broadway. It's a morning in May—more than a year since the paper became the East Bay Times.

Inside someone has tied balloons (Congratulations!), now dimpled, to a champagne bottle, now empty. The newsroom is nearly empty as well. Peele and DeBolt sit in a long, sunlit conference room. DeBolt says he’s noticed a decline in the Times’ ability to cover local government since he started working for BANG five years ago. Peele says ongoing coverage of the Ghost Ship fire—delving into what the fire department knew and when, for instance—has taken up all his time. “This other shit, you know, I can’t do it,” he says. “A politician who I pretty much had figured out was a crook has skated for the last five months because there was nobody next to me to do this.” And yet, in 2017, that nagging question persists: Does anyone care? DeBolt insists readers still find value in the local news the paper provides. “I meet people and they go, ‘Oh’—they put a face to the byline—and they say, ‘I read your stuff,’” he says. “‘You keep it up.’”

“Right, but they’re reading it on a phone,” Peele cuts in. “Which means they’re not paying for a subscription. And they probably just think the popup ads are annoying.”

“Well,” DeBolt says. “I do too.” An attempt at some humor. Neither of them laughs.

Read more:

11 lives were lost in 11 days. For the LGBTQ community in Utah, enough was enough.

It was the summer of 2017 when a small community in Utah watched in horror as 11 people took their own lives in 11 days.

All photos provided by Starbucks.

One after the other, the state had been struck with a wave of LGBTQ suicides, shaking the queer and transgender community to its core.

“These are the kids who feel like God doesn’t love them, their parents won’t understand, their community won’t understand who they are,” local Utah resident Stephanie Larsen explains.

This sense of isolation has only fueled youth suicides in the state.

“Suicide is now the leading cause of death for young people in Utah, and the suicide rate has tripled since 2007.

Seeing that LGBTQ youth in her own city desperately needed a safe place to go, Larsen founded Encircle, a resource center in Provo, Utah.

“The reason for Encircle is to keep kids alive,” Larsen says.

Having watched so many LGBTQ youth take their own lives, Larsen knew something had to give. “[I wanted] to give these kids a safe space to be, so they can grow up and have time to think about ‘Who am I? Who do I wanna be?'”

Encircle offers support groups, counseling, speaker series, and most importantly, a sense of affirmation and togetherness to LGBTQ folks in Provo and beyond.

“We can help them have a safe place to be [and] move the community to better understand these kids and their families,” Larsen says.

And she believes that this understanding is possible after having lived it herself. It wasn’t that long ago that she herself harbored prejudice of her own. “But life changed, and experiences changed me,” she explains.

And as an “all-American Mormon,” if change was possible for her, she believes that change can happen in Provo, a city known for being one of the most conservative in the country.

“[We] meet them where they are and help us all progress and become better,” Larsen says.

Having only been open six months, the center has already changed lives.

Donna Showalter, whose son Michael is a regular at Encircle, says the center has made a real difference in their lives.

“When I was running for student body president, an account was made about me being gay,” he says. “[They said,] ‘Whatever you do, don’t vote for Michael Gaywalter. We don’t want our school being run by a f*ggot.'”

This experience terrified Donna, who feared for his life as the harassment escalated.

“There was a time when we were really worried about Michael’s safety,” his mother says. “There was always the thought in my mind that he might not come back.”

“I would text him, ‘Where are you?’ And he would say, ‘I’m at Encircle,’ and I would instantly stop worrying,” she says.

“That pit in my stomach would go away instantly. I knew that he was safe.”

“I really feel like Encircle literally saved his life,” she says.

And this, of course, is what Encircle is all about — creating a space where youth are safe to be their whole selves.

When Larsen created the center, she envisioned a place where LGBTQ youth could show up as they are without having to leave their community and their families.

“We will never tell any of the youth who they should be,” Larsen explains. “Our approach is, you need to be who you need to be … and they need to look inside of themselves and say, ‘This is where I will find happiness. And this is where I will be whole and complete.'”

For the 11 LGBTQ people who lost their lives last summer, that’s a wholeness they were never able to find. But in a small house in Provo, Utah — a safe haven in a city that so often feels like a small town — each and every day, there’s a reason for hope.

For the youth of Encircle and the families and friends who love them, nothing is ever easy. But together, they can at least know it’s not a journey they’ll be taking alone.

Learn more about the incredible work happening at Encircle:

Upstanders: Love for All in Utah

At one point, she thought homosexuality was evil. Then life happened, and she made it her mission to make LGBTQ youth feel safe and loved.

Posted by Upworthy on Monday, November 20, 2017

Read more:

Which Drug Is More Harmful: Cannabis Or Alcohol?

It is a question frequently and endlessly debated, often with quite a lot of vitriol: is alcohol or marijuana more harmful?

The question is actually quite a difficult one to answer. There are many conflicting factors that make it hard to do a direct comparison between alcohol and marijuana, not least the differing legal statuses of the two drugs. While decades of research examine the effects and dangers of alcohol, the illegality of weed means that studies looking into its impact are incredibly limited.

Then there is the problem of what “worse” or “dangerous” actually mean, which is not as easy to define as you might assume. Are we referring to how addictive something is? Or perhaps the damage it does to a taker’s own body? What about how particular drugs harm society? These are all factors to take into consideration, and quantifying them is not an easy job.

But that does not mean people have not tried, and you can probably guess what the results are.

For a start, marijuana seems to be much less addictive than alcohol. In one survey about the drug habits of 8,000 Americans, researchers found that while 15 percent could be classed as addicted to alcohol, just 9 percent could be diagnosed as addicted to pot. In fact, for those smoking weed mixed with tobacco, the nicotine is far more likely to get you hooked, with 32 percent of users showing signs of addiction.

Healthwise it’s a tricky one. We’ve known for a long time that alcohol is linked to a whole host of different types of cancer, from mouth to liver, to possibly even pancreatic. On the contrary, there are many who argue that cannabis does the opposite, suggesting it can actually be used to cure cancer. Unfortunately, the evidence for this latter claim is still not conclusive, with many studies carried out on cancer cells in the lab giving limited insight into how it would work in the body.

But one of the most comprehensive studies looking into the harm of the drugs found overwhelmingly that alcohol was the most harmful. And that’s not just between booze and pot. No, in fact, mainly due to the wider issues associated with it, alcohol has been rated by far the most harmful drug, even when compared to heroin and crack cocaine, which ranked second and third, respectively. On this scale, which included both individual and societal risks, marijuana makes an appearance at number eight.

In fact, globally it’s thought that alcohol contributes to a pretty terrible 3.3 million deaths each year, which equates to one person dying every 10 seconds. Yet due to the quirks of history and society, it’s still the one that ended up legal. 

Read more:

Pinterest business lead Tim Kendall is leaving the company

Pinterest president Tim Kendall, who has since joining in 2012 overseen the growth of the startup’s advertising business and launch of a wide array of ad products, is leaving the company at the end of the year.

Kendall oversaw the company’s business operations for the past five years as it sought to grow from a niche advertising product in experimental budgets to something worth robust ad spend from larger businesses. Since then, Pinterest has begun to steadily refine its pitch and built a business that is reportedly targeting $500 million in revenue this year. It missed some early projections that it laid out many years ago, but with more than 200 million monthly active users, Pinterest has made a full-court press to get its ad products out the door and into the hands of brands and marketers.

Here’s Pinterest’s statement:

Tim Kendall is leaving Pinterest after nearly six years to start his own venture. Tim has made important contributions to Pinterest and we are pleased that he will continue to serve as an advisor to the company. Jon Alferness, Senior Vice President for Ads and Commerce, will now lead the world-class team driving our rapidly growing ads business. Our focus continues to be measurable and actionable results for our partners while giving Pinners relevant ideas to help them discover and do new things.

Kendall’s departure was first reported by Recode and confirmed to TechCrunch. Kendall will be leaving to start a new company, and the Recode report suggests that he is looking to leave now before the IPO process begins down the line. Indeed, once the company begins meeting with bankers and starts refining its pitch, Kendall would likely end up wrapped up for the indefinite duration and unable to duck out until the process is complete.

Pinterest’s pitch to advertisers has not been an easy one. The company has begun heavily investing in its computer vision tools as it looks to bake a pitch for its advertising product around a proficiency in image recognition. Kendall said the company would be integrating its visual search technology into its ad products earlier this year at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017, and the company is trying to sell to advertisers that it can hit potential customers at all points in the buying life cycle. Pinterest wants to offer ads that users can discover, gain interest, and eventually nudge them all the way to buying a product or downloading an app.

In June, Pinterest raised an additional $150 million at a $12.3 billion valuation, and Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann basically suggested that an IPO wasn’t in the near future on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017. But Pinterest is widely pegged as an IPO next year, and its top business executive leaving is going to add an additional layer of difficulty when it tries to pitch Wall Street on its business. Prior to Pinterest, Kendall led monetization at Facebook.

Read more: