U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her PDA upon her departure in a military C-17 plane from Malta bound for Tripoli,  Libya

The Washington Free Beacon says equal pay advocate Hillary Clinton paid her female Senate staffers 72¢ for every $1 she paid a man.

The salaries speak for themselves. The data shows that women in her office were paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to men. Despite the numbers, Clinton and her allies have long-touted her as “a fighter for equal pay.”

The Free Beacon goes on to explain that this is much worse than is typical for the Washington, DC area:

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In her response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst said:

We see too many moms and dads put their own dreams on hold while growing more fearful about the kind of future they’ll be able to leave to their children.

One party has fought against health care, food stamps, public education, environmental legislation, renewable energy, gay rights, minimum wage increases.

The other one is talking about improving access to health care, addressing global warming, adding two years of college and pre-school to public education.

So yes, I worry about the future I will be able to leave my child. It’s just … I guess I don’t blame who Ernst thinks I should.

Watching Delegate Joe Morrissey is an education. Morrissey is a Democratic state delegate from Richmond, and he’s had a number of run-ins with the law. Most recently, Morrissey was accused of having a sexual relationship with a seventeen-year-old employee of his law office, prompting multiple felony charges. He entered an Alford plea to a misdemeanor “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” charge, the more serious charges were dropped, and he was given a short sentence.

The state delegate is the one on the left. I understand the confusion.

The state delegate is the one on the left. I understand the confusion.

The political leadership of the state insisted that Morrissey resign, and he did. What happened next is puzzling on a lot of levels.

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Forget-me-not photo by Wikimedia / Sedum Tauno Erik http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myosotis_arvensis_ois.JPG

You might have seen this headline go by recently:

Happy New Year! Stanford May Have Just Cured Alzheimer’s

The Telegraph is marginally more sober:

Has Stanford University found a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Yes, in laboratory mice. In people, not so much. Here’s Stanford’s own take on it:

Blocking receptor in brain’s immune cells counters Alzheimer’s in mice, study finds

Exciting, no doubt. According to the Stanford news release, the brain has cells (called “microglia”) that clean house every so often. In Alzheimer’s patents, something — it would take a scientist to explain — causes these microglia to go haywire. I am imagining this as a faulty vacuum cleaner: sucking dirt up off the carpet and flinging it into the air. Probably not accurate, but maybe close enough.

Researchers managed to fix this behavior both with medical treatment and genetic engineering. As a result, Alzheimer’s symptoms in the mice were reduced or eliminated.

But it is mice and these are laboratory conditions, and many promising treatments fail human testing because they turn out to be dangerous in other ways. So yes, there’s a reason to be excited. But we’re still a long way from a cure.

Photo: Forget-me-nots by Wikimedia/Sedum Tauno Erik

I had a little dust-up on Twitter this evening when someone I followed said it was a parent’s moral duty, for the sake of their child, to quit a job they did not love. I took a bit of offense at that. It’s hard not to read that and apply it to the parents in my life — my own, my friends, myself. Many (if not most) of us setting aside what we love for lesser, more lucrative, work.

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You know, I am kinda sick of getting most of my news from viral sources. That’s why I subscribed recently to my local newspaper. They’re not perfect. But at least they do reporting instead of just rephrasing Reddit posts to maximize outrage.

Case in point: this article by Jezebel’s Mark Shrayber about a school retouching student photos:

Taking their cues from Vogue and Paper, an all-girls high school retouched ID photos to make sure that their student body was looking fly as hell when flashing their papers for discount movie tickets and ice creams.

What’s wrong here?

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Fair warning: there may be spoilers.

Calling Serial a “journalistic procedural”, Philippa Hawker says reporting the story of Adnan Syed while it was being investigated encouraged amateur sleuthing and changed the story as it was being reported. Worse, she says, it obscured the show’s themes of love, loss, and injustice.

Reporting without knowing the ending first is a strange decision, Hawker says:

When journalists work on breaking news, they’re forced to proceed this way, but Koenig deliberately imposed this process on herself.

But I’m not so sure. First, I don’t think she had much of a choice; second, most of the consequences of Serial are the consequences of any high-profile story, and third — well, Serial is a procedural, after all.

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It’s resolution time again; the time of year where we re-assess ourselves, find ourselves wanting in some way, and resolve to be better people. Not that it ever works.1

For many of us, those New Year resolutions will involve our weight. Every year, I see friends of mine make these resolutions. They start out being very stern with themselves. They post daily weight loss and gain statistics to keep themselves “accountable.” There is excitement about the first few pounds lost. Then distress as weight starts to creep back up or the habit fails to take. Finally, the diet talk stops.

One more failed resolution.

Doctor Michelle May calls this the “Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle.” First we misbehave, then we get all angry at ourselves for misbehaving and resolve to do better, and then eventually we misbehave again.

This cycle is both physically and psychologically destructive. Physically, it encourages starvation / binging behavior which carries its own health risks.

Psychologically, it reinforces a very negative view of yourself. It encourages you to treat yourself as a recalcitrant child, and when you are unable to force yourself (you most likely will be)2, then it reinforces the idea that you make awful decisions and lack willpower.

Calling yourself a stupid or weak might feel like you are taking responsibility for your own failings. And maybe it is. But does it do you any good? If you keep making and failing the same resolutions, probably not.

It’s time to try something different.

Jessy has a great template for this:

… I took chances, the more I fought back against the things I was afraid of, and the more that I learned to trust my instincts and to let go of the insecurities and small worries, the stronger I became.

Instead of telling yourself you are weak and need to be constantly watched, shamed, and punished, recognize you are stronger than you think you are.

So this year, skip the weight-loss resolutions. They have a ritual start-date, which is meaningless, and a way you can “fail” them, which is stupid. There should be no time limit achieving anything. Instead, consider Jessy’s approach.

If you need something specifically weight-related, consider an alternative to self-loathing. There’s no point beating yourself up over your weight. If you have to keep beating yourself up, then it’s not working and you really need to find another way.

  1. If it works for you, then congratulations (you weirdo). 
  2. Good for you if you can (weirdo). 

Season One of the Serial podcast is now complete, so you can start binge-listening if you’ve been holding off. This podcast is a bit different from the “recorded on a laptop mic in the back room” podcast of many years ago. It is an excellently produced and well-thought-out piece of journalism.

Of course it’s also extremely popular, so some people who haven’t listened to it are patting themselves on the back for not following the crowd.

Two things about that.

First, if you are deciding not to listen, read, or watch something just because everyone is talking about it, you need to re-evaluate your decision-making process.

Secondly, creative people take note: you can work for decades in relative obscurity before suddenly having your breakout hit. When (if) you do, people will sneer at your “overnight success.”


Take it from someone who did not join the Serial bandwagon but who was on it from the start. Not only is Serial itself fascinating, but it is the exact opposite of the Buzzfeed / Huffington Post news culture.

Sarah Koenig is a skilled (Peabody-award-winning) journalist and producer, and she spent over a year researching the story. The story itself is interesting, but it also raises difficult issues about how our justice system works (or doesn’t), the dangers of insular communities, and religious prejudice.

Everyone else seems to think we want short, punchy, exaggerated stories. And then along comes Serial: hours long, deeply researched, complicated, and offering no easy answers.

And it “goes viral” by surprise. That says something very encouraging about the future of journalism.