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Filter Bubbles

“Most people, I hope, still want to know the real facts.” – Bill Gates.
Computer generated algorithms are editing our online searches to produce content they believe that we, the users, want to see.

Companies such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Amazon are using them and the list goes on.
These calculations allow little or no room for alternate webpages, regarding moral or political policies, or even just light-hearted trivia. This stems from the algorithmic codes personalising individual content, restricting our access to only commonly viewed platforms. This segregation of material can leave groups of people or individuals, intellectually isolated.
“Filter bubbles” – a term coined by Eli Pariser – an internet activist and the chief executive at website Upworthy – aren’t just limited to your online self, but also who you spend time with, where you travel to and occasionally the job you work in.
Whether it’s through intentional choice or what our computers and/or social environment are providing us with; polarisation is increasing, our information accuracy is becoming less acute, and sadly we are fragmenting because of the tailored media that we access.
I myself am a victim of filter bubbles, my Google searches often provide a poor variety of sources – it seems to think I only read The Guardian. I would hazard a guess that my most frequently clicked on articles via social media stem from The Guardian. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t want news from elsewhere.
I rarely see anything unusual appear when I search a specific topic; only sites I visit regularly. Frequently I find myself digging through various sites; from one page to the next to try and attain an overall view, it can often be a long and arduous task, habitually, with no end.
To use the Internet effectively I choose to look outside what I would class as “easy news selections”, by watching a variety of news channels that offer varied accounts on worldwide and local news. It’s time for everyone to broaden their source horizon.
The separation we’re experiencing right now on many different levels: political, environmental, social, racial and even gender is often causing mob mentality and these “filter bubbles” are making it easier to get stuck in our ways. It’s becoming harder to see or even try to understand other points of view, or sometimes, look beyond our own self-interest, to look at the bigger picture. To combat this divisive behaviour we need to bridge the ideological divide. Interact with people who challenge your beliefs, and rather than talk past each other, try to engage by discussing moral values rather than shouting common, platitude opinions.
I often talk to people with beliefs separate from mine, but perhaps I should change the manner in which I do so. Approximately 70% of my influence comes from more liberal sources and even though I pay attention to what conservative voters have to say, perhaps I should listen more often to their estimations without any preconceived judgment.
If we all stepped outside our filter bubbles with an open mind, we have the chance to improve democratic dialogue and the environment in which we all live.
With the issue of the algorithms themselves, they would be more effective if they were less opaque with their output, distributing an even balance of individual preference combined together with a mixture of mainstream and alternative sources. This would make for a more democratically successful Internet, rather than one tailored to show you only what these codes believe you need to see.

Chilean protest song

Crowds across the world chant a Chilean protest song for International Women’s Day

“Un violador en tu camino, el violador eres tú”

A rapist in your path, the rapist is you – was first performed in late November as Chile’s nationwide uprising against social inequality. 

The anthem protests the impunity of gender-based violence and condemns the judicial system’s failure to protect women and their rights, and raises awareness on the culture of violence intrinsic to the fabric of our society.

The performance piece was born out of feminist struggle in Chile, where 42 cases of sexual abuse are reported each day (almost two every hour), only 8 per cent of all reported rapes result in conviction.

International Women’s Day saw videos of the song and its accompanying choreography spreading across Latin America and the world. The powerful anthem was performed in hundreds of cities globally, including Liverpool.

Violence against women is a global issue: according to UN data, a third of all girls and women suffer physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.

International Women’s Day may be over but the fight for gender equality continues every day. If you’re interested in being part of this or other similar movements, here are some great hashtags to check out #unvioladorentucamino #bethechange #yesallwomen #effyourbeautystandards #metoo

Community members perform a piece by the Valparaíso, Chile feminist collective Las Tesis, “A Rapist in Your Path/Un violador en tu camino”, at the 2020 San Francisco Women’s March.

Wikicommons Pax Ahimsa Gethen – Own work

By Hannah Martin

Football Podcast

A podcast which shines a light on the world of football finances, has been listened to more than a quarter of a million times just five months after its launch.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire and comedian Kevin Day follow the money to find out what’s really going on behind the scenes of the often secretive side to the sport and has listeners gripped.

Maguire is a University of Liverpool lecturer and according to his Twitter, has been labelled “Football finance’s f@!king Rain Man” by one club owner.

The controversial podcast was created by Manchester-based podcast production company Dap Dip, recently founded by BBC broadcast journalist Guy Kilty.

With gigantic sums of money involved in the football world, it’s a point of interest many fans don’t usually get to see.

With dubious deals, such as clubs being sponsored by taxi companies that don’t own any taxis and the extraordinary cash fountain involved in football, there’s opportunity for constant new material.

Continued accounts in to the secretive, back-door world of football finance’s, look set to keep listeners interested and audience figures are set to rise.

By Hannah Martin,

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Laws Changed This Year But What Could This Mean For You?

While there’s a current global trend towards legalisation of medical cannabis, the process is slow.

During 2018 there’s been a severe spike in media attention regarding cannabis-derived prescription drugs, which forced our socially conservative government to review the medical uses of cannabis with many claiming the law “outdated and ineffective”.

A number of high-profile cases involving children suffering with the cruelest forms of epilepsy being denied access to the former Schedule 1 drug (no medical value) to control epileptic seizures urged amendment to legislation; cannabis is now Schedule 2 (can be prescribed).

Speaking with Liverpools Pleasant Street Primary School head-teacher, she said: “Now the drug is a legalised substance, we’re allowed to issue the child with their daily dose as long as a letter is provided by the parent and medical practitioner.” For any parents who had to wait in the school carpark to administer any dosage required during school hours themselves – this will be welcome news.

Dr. William Shaw from The Royal Liverpool Hospital spoke about the pure-plant derived drug, Epidiolex, now available and other uses for medical marijuana: “I think it’s a good step forward but I think the oils have such a wide range of usage which will take years to allow into UK law.”

He went on to say: “Medical marijuana has a whole range of different uses with a varied amount of research behind it. CBD definitely has benefit in some more serious types of childhood epilepsy which the new law in the UK has mostly been change to encompass. However, it has a broad use as an anti-inflammatory where I think it has an interesting possible use. Opioids have a use for short-term pain relief but are horrendous drugs to take long term. In the US where there is an opioid epidemic at the moment, they can use cannabis as a tool to replace these drugs as a pain reliever with the added benefit of reducing inflammation in things like arthritis and MS. Even in the UK you see so many people with chronic pain and a heap of issues with pain pills.”

“The law in the UK will only allow very specialist doctors to prescribe very specific oils for a tiny proportion of conditions. It’s a good first step but only a handful of people will benefit.”

Dr. Shaw concluded: “Anyone with a propensity for psychotic mental illness should obviously avoid the THC side to the plant. It also has other side effects as every drug does.”

80,000 senior clinicians are now in the UK to prescribe the products for “patients with an exceptional clinical need”. A number of researchers believe strict regulation will stop all who may benefit from accessing the drug. At the moment, NHS doctors have very little guidance about how to prescribe cannabis. The Independent has reported that many have indicated they will not, because there is no larger infrastructure to support them if something does go wrong.

Epidiolex is the newly legalised drug indicated for the treatment of seizures associated with epilepsy in patients two years of age and older. However this isn’t the first cannabis-derived prescription medicine to be licensed in the UK.

Sativex is legal medicine for treating Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms. Since its legalisation in 2013 – Sativex was put in to production to help relieve MS related symptoms. In medical trials, around half of the patients responded, typically in the first few weeks of treatment. In 2014 it was claimed to be “not a cost effective treatment” by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and has since been unavailable on the NHS. More here.

“This change in the law is a landmark moment,” says Genevieve Edwards, the director of External Affairs at the Multiple Sclerosis Society. “But work needs to be done to ensure people with MS are actually able to access medicinal cannabis on the NHS.”

After speaking to 100 individuals on the streets of Liverpool, only 2 people said they didn’t agree with the legalisation of medical cannabis. But do the other 98% have enough of the facts to make a well-informed certified conclusion?

It seems the new law will help some people, however research has been done showing adverse effects from the new “miracle” drug (More Here). For the health of the population – we should remain investigative.

Personal Debt

I spoke with economic experts about the dangers of living on credit, and their Black Friday concerns

According to new figures released by Finder, Brits plan to spend an estimated £5.6 billion this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This colossal figure comes at a time when credit card interest rates are sitting at a record high.

Britons owe an estimated total of £72.5 billion on credit cards with £400 million added to balances in November alone. Each household in the UK now has an average of £2,688 unpaid on credit cards, one of the most expensive means of borrowing, leaving more and more families with unmanageable piles of debt.

LL spoke with Liverpool based financial advisor, Vera Touringou to find out what Black Friday could mean for UK consumers and their accumulation of personal debt.

She said: “One of the main dangers with Black Friday is impulse buying. When you shop in this mode, mistakes are often made. There are things that should have been considered which are often over-looked, such as; do I actually need this, have I researched the quality, is this a genuinely good price or have the company inflated the price before slashing prices, what will the interest be if I can’t pay it back in time and have I budgeted for this?

“For decades now Britain’s saving rates are ranked incredibly low in OECD data. The level of consumerism in this country is concerning to me, UK society seem to be seeking immediate gratification and ignoring the importance of saving and investment.”

Figures released by Finder, highlight that last year (2018), 21% of Brits purchased something on Black Friday/Cyber Monday that they later regretted.

Factfile

  • £1.637 trillion is owed by individuals in the UK (June 2019)
  • On average every Brit spent £967 on interest alone last year
  • 350 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt every day
  • Citizens Advice Bureaux dealt with 2,527 new debt problems every day in the year (May 2019)
  • 15 properties are repossessed every day
  • 1,213 people a day reported they had become redundant between January and March (2019)

 

Every 4 minutes a person is declared insolvent/bankrupt in the UK.

 

Debt charity, Step Change say stretched households are vulnerable to small changes in their income, rising inflation and higher interest rates.

LL spoke to debt advisor, Charmaine Williamson to get a sense of the UK’s personal debt situation.

She said: “It’s not difficult to fall in to debt. If you catch a stroke of bad financial luck and don’t have anyone in your life to help bail you out then credit can often be your only option. Everyone thinks they’ll pay it off straight away, but life isn’t always that kind and when you combine your new debt with general living, the situation can quickly become a nightmare.

“Right now, Everything is going up, the amount households are borrowing, the cost of living, and also interest rates.

“There’s a stigma that unmanageable debt must have been created by over-spending, which isn’t always the case. Not having enough money to make ends meet is not the same thing as living beyond your means – which implies you have a choice, when many people do not.

 

Consumer debt has risen back to pre-crisis levels in many countries – Mervyn King, former Bank of England governor

 

“While the government commends itself on cutting back on borrowing, it’s riding people of essential services that they rely on and as a result they fall in to debt. Rising debt is not a personal problem; it’s a political one.”

Company, Cashfloat recently estimated that the UK has the third worst debt addiction in the western world with credit being responsible for fuelling the economy’s growth.

Make sure you think before you buy this Black Friday, more often than not it’s just not worth it.

Surrender a Knife, Save a Life

A glaring reminder of the UK’s knife crime epidemic and a tribute to those affected by it has now been unveiled in Liverpool.

The 27-foot-high angel made of 100,000 blades confiscated by or surrendered to police forces across the UK will be showcased outside the Anglican Cathedral through December and into the New Year.

Created by artist Alfie Bradley at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire – the artwork is intended as a monument against violence and aggression. With knife crime figures rising and a growing concern around the issue it seems a just time for such an invoking structure.

Taking 18months to design and create, Bradley’s idea was an arduous task with a strong message he wished to convey. Some of the blades used had to be disinfected to remove bodily fluids, they were then all blunted down and carved with messages of love and remembrance. The “angels destiny” is part of the nationwide #nomoreknives campaign to keep knife crime and violence off UK streets – followers of the campaign aren’t just family and friends of victims but are also perpetrators who regret their involvement in knife crime.

Billy, 34 from Liverpool said: “I think it’s a really great thing – it’s disturbing how young kids are now who say they need protection from knives to socialise. Knife crime seems to happen in more deprived areas, but regardless of that I feel sorry for anyone who’s in an environment that’s pushed them to carry a weapon. I really hope the statue makes even a small difference.”

The piece is intended to send a strong social message regarding how many lives could be saved if people put down their weapons. All UK cities have suffered as a result of more weapons on the streets, Liverpool being one of them and many hope this invoking structure will highlight the severity of knives and discourage weapon possession.

The Surrender a Knife, Save a Life program continues today in an effort to bring down the number of stabbings across the UK. Talks are currently underway to decide which city The Angel of Knives will visit next.

Blog Writing

Liverpool’s Spirit

Tucked away at the edge of Liverpool’s city centre is the bohemian Bold Street.

Famous for its laid back, alternative vibe and independent businesses, it’s a place where high-end eatery’s and edgy innovation meet to test the standard UK high street.

Playing host to an array of eclectic shops, eateries and bars – shoppers are never short of a new find, from vintage sweatshirts to crystal necklaces or the best new cocktail in town.

The vibrant hub plays host to, vintage, vinyls, books, jewellery, home wares and often something a little different to the norm – even some shops that get you thinking like the radical community bookshop, News From Nowhere (pictured below). It’s clear many of the shops promote ethical, fair trade and eco-conscious produce.

If it isn’t shopping you’re interested in, then head to one of it’s cultural institutions such as FACT or St Luke’s, known locally as “The Bombed Out Church” for exciting exhibitions and events.

Don’t feel bad if the cultural shopping plan falls off the shelf – you wouldn’t be the first to be tempted away by the live music, lip-smacking food, caffeine strong holds or abundant ‘funky looking’ little bars.

I urgently suggest trying Maray’s, Mowgli’s and Dia Noche – I’m not on their payroll. They’re just really good. Go. Go now!

Now you’re there – I’m sure you’re stuck trying to pick which one to tick off the list first. Mowgli’s is modern Indian street food serving small flavoursome plates – think ‘Indian tapas’. Also, make sure to get the Mowgli G&T otherwise you may as well not go! Maray’s is modern British dining at its finest, with a menu of small seasonal plates filled with exciting ideas and some serious expertise from both the food and the drink side.

The old merchants buildings that line the streets have created a fantastic home for this bustling area – I’m not saying the place doesn’t need a spruce up! But it’s cosy, fun, charming – and I like it there.

Whatever the business, there’s a high chance it’s not your typically ran chain store – so head down and show some love to your fellow man.

HOMOTOPIA FESTIVAL 2018

Empowerment is here – and it’s here all month.

Today the arts, social justice and LBGTQ+ festival’s back in Liverpool celebrating its 15th birthday.

Homotopia will provide November with a month of culture, dance, and debate with this years #IWillSurvive18 theme and it all kicks-off tonight with its launch party at Hinterlands.

 

Char Binns, manager of the event, gave us a taste a few of the icons that will be performing over the next month: “This years line-up is phenomenal, with international superstars such as John Waters and Jinkx Monsoon, to some of the most important LGBTQ+ voices in the UK, like Travis Alabanza and Scottee.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55tM1BSqcPs#action=share

(BBC’s video of Scottee. Scottee will be performing “Fat Blokes” on Sat 17 Novemeber at this years festival.)

The diverse and progressive festival includes, poetry, comedy, disco, cinema, cabaret and discussions. Events will be held across the city from Sefton Park Palm House to Invisible Wind Factory and many others in-between. Here’s a link to the full festival programme: Homotopia Festival Guide

Joining the headliners are numerous other intriguing players from the arts and culture scene, to name just a few;

The informal and creative networking event, Queer Hub returns this year for a Homotopia special. They’ll be exploring this years festival theme “I Will Survive” with discussions about wellbeing, mindfulness and self-care on Sat 17 November.

A night of film shorts from some of the UK’s most forward thinking filmmakers will be exploring queer and trans identities when Shorts and Sweet comes to Frederiks on Wed 28 November. There will also be a Q&A with Liverpool filmmaker, DJ and activist Sandi Hughes.

Where Are All The Lesbians? have a women-centric evening of interactive discussion regarding “Are lesbian, bi and queer woman adequately represented in UK media and arts? Does it matter?” which then moves on to the afterparty “Lez Be Avin It” on Fri 30 November.

If you’re heading to the launch party tonight then swing by Tusk Baltic between 5 & 9pm and quote “Homotopia” to receive 15% off a wee scran.

Tickets are available now, and depending on your purse strings there are free events and others range from £1-£33.50. This leaves a way for everyone to either dance or discuss their way to liberation.

Char finalised by telling The Ropewalks Reporter: “LBGTQ+ is an inclusive event by its very nature. The next four weeks offer something for everyone and I’ve no doubt that the entire month will be fabulous.”

LEAVING NEVERLAND - TRUE OR FALSE?

Michael Jackson’s affiliation with paedophilic accusations have been circulating since the early 90’s, and the recent bombshell documentary has added fuel to the fire and split public opinion once again. 

Dan Reed’s documentary, Leaving Neverland first aired in the US and then on Channel 4 in January 2019, a severe dispute has raged around the unsettling footage of Wade Robson and James Safechuck recalling their alleged exploitation. The two men, now 36 and 40 – individually, described in graphic detail the grooming, sexual abuse and coercion they claim lasted for years after meeting Jackson.

The four-hour expose details how both young boys came to meet the megastar, through their interest of entertaining at a young age. A few meet and greets took place, and a particularly shocking relay came when Wade explained that Jackson had sent a TV crew to his house to film him dancing for MJ to see,  Wade said that in hindsight that it felt like a mini audition for him to watch and see if he liked what he saw. Jackson began funding exuberant holidays with private jets, claiming to the families that he was with both families and eventually was seen as an adopted son in both families. 

Wade and James both say they were manipulated into sexual intimacy with Jackson, and also in to keeping the apparent secret, which Michael had said would get them in huge trouble and it was just their way of expressing love but that people wouldn’t understand.

The Jackson family have struck out at US channel HBO to try and defend the King of Pop’s legacy. They filed a $100 million lawsuit accusing Wade and James as having “financial motivations”. HBO have labelled it as “desperate attempts’ and allowed the film to air regardless.

Many who watched the documentary were left feeling disturbed but also with little doubt that the stories were true. The singer’s army of hardcore fans have retaliated in fury, taking to Twitter with the hashtag #MJisInnocent and time disparities in the story line have been flagged by many.

By the time he died at age 50 in 2009, Jackson had been trailed by allegations of child sexual abuse for more than 15 years, but “Leaving Neverland” could reshape his legacy for years to come.

Many people are questioning Wade and Safechuck based on the belief that their timelines don’t completely add up. Is it strange that childhood memories are blurred and certain memories are suppressed? Could the Jackson empire have a PR team working around the clock to disprove both “victims”?

Were Robson and Safechuck lying? Could Michael Jackson really have acted in such a horrific way? Grooming happens to this day, there are so many victims involved – could a fictional story that had such earth shattering consequences have been fabricated?

In Jackson’s case he wanted to buy children material things and take them on extravagant excursions. I think people accepted this, as we believed this incredibly talented man had been robbed of his own childhood. In allowing him to reclaim his own childhood, did we turn a blind eye to his robbing small boys of theirs? Are the public turning our backs on other sufferers of sexual abuse by blindly professing his innocence? Or was this a money grab scam?