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February 16, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Fake News

Mainstream journalists today are being subjected to disintermediation. Anyone with access to the Internet can post most anything posing as “news” on Facebook, Google, YouTube, and a variety of other websites. Journalism as practiced in the 1960s is a distant memory, as when Walter Cronkite of CBS declared that the Vietnam war could not be won and President Lyndon Johnson lamented, “If I have lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

The proliferation of cable channels, talk radio, news websites, and other sources of “news”, most would agree, has plusses and minuses. We no longer have our news delivered by “The Voice of God”, whether it’s Walter Cronkite or Henry Luce’s Time Magazine and we can easily access a wider range of opinion and policy proposals.

But many of us would admit that we tend to access news sources that will reinforce our own biases, and to ignore those outlets that would challenge our opinions. Possibly this has eroded the power of politicians at the “center” and made political compromise in Congress more difficult.

Fake News is reflective of the trend of fragmentation of sources, but different

What fewer would debate is that our country is not well served by “fake news” that undermines the power of an informed citizenry. Educated voters can hold our political leaders to account for policies and actions but world history is replete with the danger if public opinion is based on lies.

There are a number of reasons for the rise of “fake news”, but one especially strong incentive is that you can make a lot of money by creating it. The process is pretty simple and straightforward. Set up a website, create headlines — the more provocative the better — and get advertisers to pay based on the number of visitors to the site.

The New York Times profiled a recent college graduate who makes between $10,000 and $30,000 a month from creating fake news.
His masterpiece: playing on the fear of Trump supporters that there would be a rigged election. His headline: “Breaking: Tens of thousands of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse.”
None of this was true. The story was illustrated with a stock photo of plastic crates labeled “Ballot Box”, which was actually a photo from an election in Britain.
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/us/fake-news-hillary-clinton-cameron-harris.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

“Fake News” content creators are found around the world. Eastern Europe is a particularly fertile ground for such individuals, who need only a computer. Earning $1,000 or $3,000 a month can put the individual at the upper end of the income range in some of these countries.
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/world/europe/fake-news-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-georgia.html?_r=0

What to do about this?

Both Facebook and Google have recently adopted a policy to refuse to place ads on sites controlled by fake news publishers. But the purveyors and profit-makers from fake news are likely to be nimble and set up new websites when their discredited ones have been shut down.
http://www.wsj.com/articles/mark-zuckerberg-explains-how-facebook-plans-to-fight-fake-news-1479542069

The New York Times solicited ideas and came up with four proposals:
Facebook must acknowledge and change its financial incentives
Algorithms could help social media users spot fake news
3) Users must be more critical of online content
4) Social media companies need to hire human editors
http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2016/11/22/how-to-stop-the-spread-of-fake-news

There are several sites that try to investigate and debunk fake rumor and news including factcheck.org, snopes.com, and politifact.com but in entering some of the “fake news” stories I found, these didn’t always come up as stories discredited.

Another proposal is to create a crowdsourced, open list of false news sites regularly updated and refined by consensus (like Wikipedia) and persuade Google, Facebook, YouTube and other social media to agree to abide by this list and block such site advertising. Employ self-policing as with Wikipedia.

Issues for Discussion

Who is the arbiter of “fake news”? It’s the age-old conundrum of the rights of free speech vs. censorship. The line between satire and “lying for cash” may be difficult to draw.
Should there be penalties for those who knowingly create “fake news”? Is it the equivalent of “shouting fire in a crowded theater”?
Should prominent social media sites such as Facebook and Google be legally required to root out fake news sites, or even to face fines for failure of due diligence?
What is the obligation of politicians to be accountable for exercising due diligence on stories that they distribute? Donald Trump has been accused of re-tweeting fake news without checking the validity of a story.
What methods should be adopted to educate citizens about how to test the truthfulness of stories they may see on social media and the Internet?
Do mainstream journalists need to change their methods of communicating and sourcing stories in order to offer a more legitimate and accessible alternative to fake news?

Other Reading

https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-the-debate-over-journalism-post-trump-gets-wrong/

Discussion leader: Charles Salmans

Resources:

April 20, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Charter Schools

Charter Schools: Pros & Cons

Discussion leader: David Mace

Resources:

March 16, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
Sanctuary Cities and Immigration

Sanctuary Cities – Their impact on

– Immigration
– Local economies
– Legal system
– Law enforcement

Discussion leader: Bob Baker

Resources:

February 8, 2017
Jeff Cordulack
Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)

Jeff Cordulack

Jeff Cordulack

Jeff Cordulack will talk about the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), a nonprofit organization of more than 5,000 farmers, gardeners, landscape professionals and consumers in seven states.

Jeff is executive director of the Connecticut Chapter of NOFA, whose goal is to educate farmers, gardeners, land care professionals and consumers about organic farming techniques using conferences, workshops, farm tours and printed materials.

Jeff was raised in Darien and is interested in wildlife conservation, watershed protection, organic farming and sustainable living. He joined NOFA in 2015 after working for 10 years with the National Audubon Society in Greenwich. Prior to that, he worked for SoundWaters in Stamford for eight years. He has collaborated with many conservation organizations over the last two decades.

In 2013, Jeff was a recipient of the Paul Keough Award presented by the Northeast Water Environment Association in recognition of his communications leadership to increase public awareness, understanding and personal actions to protect water quality and the environment.

Jeff and his wife have three children and cultivate their own frontyard garden and organic lawn. He volunteers as the Schoolyard Habitat Steward for local schools and is chairperson for the Metro North chapter of Slow Food USA.

Arranged by Martin Skala

February 1, 2017
Alison Nicholls
Conservation Art in Africa

Alison Nicholls is an artist inspired by Africa. Although she has traveled extensively throughout her life, Africa inspires her in ways unmatched by any other place. Her artistic work depicting Africa is based on field sketching, studio paintings and conservation sketching expeditions. Alison has found Africa to be a continent of diverse peoples and cultures, huge cities and dusty villages, vast deserts and thick forests, hot swamps and cold highlands, and home to some of the most iconic wildlife on the planet.

Alison brings all this together using her artistic talents. Field sketching in pencil requires confidence and speed. It usually is done standing up or sitting in a vehicle. Decisions about light and composition must be made quickly. Another factor is that the person or animal being sketched can move out of sight at any time. Studio painting makes it possible to create the effects of light, color, dust and heat. Conservation sketching expeditions and resulting sketches and paintings help raise awareness and funds so that the sponsoring organization can continue its work.

Alison leads art safaris in South Africa and is a signature member of Artists for Conservation, the Society of Animal Artists and the Explorers Club. Her art has been exhibited at the Botswana Mission to the United Nations. The U.S. Department of State used her art to promote the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking.

Alison lives in Port Chester, N.Y., with her husband and a German shepherd named Chase.

Arranged by Tom Lom

January 25, 2017
Joe Schneirlein
Norwalk Aquarium
The environmental conditions of Long Island Sound

Joe Schnierlein

Joe Schnierlein

Joe Schnierlein, research and university liaison representative with The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, will talk about the environmental impacts on Long Island Sound past, present and future.

The Maritime Aquarium explores the many facets of the Sound, which is an extraordinary ecosystem that has supported the economy and culture of the region since prehistoric times. Some 20 million people live within a one-hour drive of the Sound. The effects of their actions make sustaining the natural functions of Long Island Sound a challenge. Its watershed covers five states and extends into Canada. Three major rivers and 59 smaller rivers and creeks empty into the Sound. Geographically, it is 113 miles long and 21 miles across at its widest point. Its average depth is 63 feet and holds about 18 trillion gallons of water.

Joe has been involved in the sciences and education his entire career. His current work at the Aquarium includes serving as manager of professional development and assistant director of guest services. He began his career in 1970 as a teacher and then science department chairman at Brien McMahon High School.

His many other teaching experiences include adjunct professor of marine biology at Norwalk Community College, adjunct professor of sciences at Sacred Heart University and chemical oceanographer for the Windward Oceanographic Institute.

He is a former member of the Norwalk Shellfish Commission, the Norwalk Mayoral Water Quality Commission and the Norwalk Park Planning Committee.

Arranged by Tom Lom

 

January-February 2017 Newsletter

View January-February 2017 DMA Newsletter PDF File.

President’s 2016 Year-end Message

It has been a great beginning to the 2016-2017 season of the DMA. Our focus this year is on increasing member participation in our activities, and you, our members, have answered the call. We have inaugurated a new activity, pickleball, which has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception. Our last hike had 18 people in attendance—a record—and an earlier hike had 14 participants, exceeded only by our initial hike in 2013. Our November trip to the Yale Center for British Art sold out bus capacity two weeks in advance. Undaunted, four persons drove to New Haven on their own to join the group.

The Book Club has grown and now is our most popular activity. Two members have stepped forward and are planning to introduce a new activity, about which you will hear later. Our hope was that greater member activity would lead to growth in membership, and this has been the case. You have brought a large number of guests to our meetings, and 19 have elected to join the ranks of new members in the first four months of this season. This compares with 26 in all of 2015-2016. In addition, existing members have renewed their membership earlier and in greater numbers than last year.

Attendance at our weekly meetings is up, as the Program Speaker Committee continues to attract excellent speakers. The directors and officers of the DMA wish to express their appreciation for all you do to make our club more successful. We hope you had a happy and safe holiday season, and we wish you a healthy and successful new year.

Scott Hutchason, president

January 18, 2017
Dave Shafer
Photographer and humorist
A Humorous Guide to Better Photography

Dave Shafer

Dave Shafer

Dave Shafer, a local photographer and internationally recognized designer of optical systems, will present “A Humorous Guide to Better Photography.”

Asked to describe his talk, Dave said, “When Snow White sent her film to be developed, she said, ‘Someday my prints will come.’ ” He noted that times have changed. Film is gone now, and we need to refresh our picture-taking skills. The most valuable asset in photography is your eye, not the camera. He will show ways to improve your photos by using some classic methods about picture composition. Many examples will include visual humor. If you have not taken any pictures since your old Brownie camera, you still can enjoy the stories in his talk.

His main claim to being a humorist is that after 51 years of marriage, he still can make his wife laugh. But that is only half of Dave’s story. He has spent the last 50 years designing camera lenses, telescopes and microscopes and now operates a one-man optical design and consulting firm. All of today’s state-of-the-art computer chips for cell phones, computers and tablets are made using a unique optical system invented by Dave 10 years ago. He has more than 125 patents for optical designs. One of his unusual telescopes went to Saturn a few years ago aboard the Cassini spacecraft. Another device took photos of the asteroid Vesta. And a spacecraft using his telescope was launched with the goal of landing on a comet. He also designed a specialized stereo-viewing device for Salvador Dali.

Arranged by Tom Lom

Dave slides are at A Humorous Guide to Better Photography

February 8, 2017 –
Book Discussion
The Innovators
How a Group Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Walter Isaacson

innovatorsFollowing his blockbuster biography of Steve Jobs, The Innovators is Walter Isaacson’s revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. It is destined to be the standard history of the digital revolution and an indispensable guide to how innovation really happens. What were the talents that allowed certain inventors and entrepreneurs to turn their visionary ideas into disruptive realities? What led to their creative leaps? Why did some succeed and others fail? In his masterly saga, Isaacson begins with Ada Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. He explores the fascinating personalities that created our current digital revolution, such as Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee, and Larry Page. This is the story of how their minds worked and what made them so inventive. It’s also a narrative of how their ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative. For an era that seeks to foster innovation, creativity, and teamwork, The Innovators shows how.

Discussion leader: Gary Banks

January 19, 2017
Current Affairs Discussion:
The Electoral College

The Electoral College:

– Why was it created?
– How it works.
– Is it still relevant?

Discussion Leader: Jim Phillips

January 11, 2017
Ed “Skip” McLaughlin, and
Wyn Lydecker
Starting and Building Your Own Business

Ed McLaughlin

Ed McLaughlin

Ed McLaughlin and Wyn Lydecker will talk about becoming an entrepreneur: how to start, fund and grow the right business.

Co-authors of the book The Purpose Is Profit: The Truth about Starting and Building Your Own Business, they will discuss why distinctive competence trumps passion when starting a business. They also will talk about where to get funding without losing control and why a startup should factor profit into every business decision.

Over the years, Ed “Skip” McLaughlin founded four businesses and today runs Blue Sunsets LLC, a real estate and agent investment firm. His first business grew into an Inc. magazine 500 company that later was sold to a Fortune 100 company, where Skip became CEO of Global Workplace Business for the Americas. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 2001. He is a member of the Tufts Medical Center board of governors, where he founded the David E. Wazer Breast Cancer Research Fund.

Skip graduated from College of the Holy Cross and is a member of the board of trustees. He lives with his wife in Connecticut, has three adult children and is active in philanthropy.

Wyn Lydecker

Wyn Lydecker

Wyn Lydecker is founder of Upstart Business Planning and works with entrepreneurs to develop plans that answer the questions investors ask most often. Previously, she was managing director of Business Plan International in New York City and co-director of the Small Business Resource Center, Norwalk Community College. Wyn has a B.A. in economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an M.B.A. in finance and marketing from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She helped found the nonprofit At Home in Darien and serves on the board. Wyn lives in Connecticut with her husband and has two adult children.

Arranged by Tom Lom

 

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