In an effort to thwart bullying, a school district in California has begun monitoring social media posts made by its 14,000 middle and high school students. The Glendale Unified School District is paying Geo Listening, a social networking monitoring service, to comb through students' posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks, looking for things that bully, express suicidal thoughts or confess wrongdoing. Geo Listening will also be checking for profanity. It will notify the district if it runs across anything alarming or suspicious. [AP, 9/15/13]
According to USA Today, many gangs are recruiting new members via the Internet—even using popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter to do so. About 20% of gang members say their organizations either have their own websites or maintain a presence on a social networking outlet; half say they've posted videos of their gangs in action. Some say they use Facebook and Twitter to pick fights. Of course, this social networking presence can make it easier to crack down on a gang's illegal activity too. Last year, police in New York City arrested 43 gang members in relation to crimes they talked about on Twitter. [time.com, 9/30/13]
Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, N.Y., has dumped books in favor of a "digital library" accessible through apps and websites. For students such as 15-year-old Nicholas Dadario—whose backpack last year typically weighed about 35 pounds—the change has lifted a weight both off his back and his mind. "It's not only lighter, but you're mobile," he says. "You can bring your computer to your friend's house, wherever, and you're all set." [usatoday.com, 9/18/13]
Since one in five traffic accidents in New York State are reportedly caused by "distracted driving," Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that New York will be the first state to designate special texting stops for drivers. Ninety-one "texting zones" will be established along freeways, with nearly 300 signs alerting drivers that they have an alternative to texting while driving. [nydailynews.com, 9/27/13]
California has become the second state (along with New Jersey) to legislate against "revenge porn," which consists of maliciously distributing intimate pictures of an ex online as a form of punishment. Under the new California law, anyone who publishes such images can be fined up to $1,000 and face up to six months in jail. [time.com, 10/3/13; latimes.com, 10/1/13]
What pop musician or group would you guess attracts the most streaming online? Perhaps Lady Gaga? Justin Bieber? Katy Perry? Good guesses, all. But according to SoundExchange, a performance rights organization that gathers royalties from more than 2,000 digital music streaming sources, the artist who attracted the most streamed listens from 2003 to 2013 is someone who died decades before streaming even existed: Elvis Presley. The King was followed by Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Rihanna, Drake, Usher, Lil Wayne, The Beatles, Taylor Swift and the Grateful Dead. SoundExchange's most-streamed list draws from Internet music sources such as Pandora, iHeartRadio and Last.fm, among others, but does not include data from YouTube or Spotify. [usatoday.com, 10/3/13]
"Maybe I'm just getting a little bit older, and as you get older you realize, 'Oh, I don't know if I can pull that off anymore.' I mean, if I had Rihanna's body, I would wear everything that Rihanna wears because she looks fabulous in all of it. But I think I want to keep the attention on my music. I really have a lot of confidence in my songs that are coming out, and that's where I need most of the focus."
—singer Katy Perry, on the stripper-filled imagery in the video for Rihanna's latest single, "Pour It Up"
"A lot of sex goes into what I do. But sometimes I would like to bring it back to the old days when there was like one outfit through the whole video … and there's like not that much sex stuff going on."
—Britney Spears, whose latest video for her single "Work B‑‑ch" features the starlet as a barely clothed dominatrix. Spears says that the video is less risqué than it could've been: "Like, I cut out half the video because I am a mother and because, you know, I have children, and it's just hard to play sexy mom while you're being a pop star as well." When asked whether she's sometimes pushed to be more sexual than she'd like, Spears replied, "Yes." [abcnews.com, 10/3/13]
"I wasn't going to write this letter, but today I've been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your 'Wrecking Ball' video was designed to be similar to the one for [Sinead O'Connor's hit] 'Nothing Compares' … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love. I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way 'cool' to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it's the music business or yourself doing the pimping. Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent."
—47-year-old Sinead O'Conner, in the first of three "open letters" to Miley Cyrus published first on her personal blog, then on her Facebook profile. Miley initially said she was too busy to respond because she was going to be hosting Saturday Night Live, but then joked about the Irish singer's mental health (including the posting of unflattering pictures of O'Conner from several years ago), prompting legal threats from O'Conner. [sineadoconnor.com, 10/3/3; facebook.com, 10/3/13]
"Somebody told me I was fat, that I was going to get fired if I didn't lose a certain amount of weight. They brought in pictures of me where I was basically naked, and told me to use them as motivation for my diet," actress Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook, X-Men: First Class) said in a recent interview with Harper's Bazaar. She added that some people were surprised the incident so deeply impacted her. "They thought that because of the way my career had gone, it wouldn't still hurt me. That somehow, after I won an Oscar, I'm above it all. 'You really still care about that?' Yeah. I was a little girl. I was hurt."
Meanwhile, ABC's new comedy Super Fun Night has come under fire for the way it incessantly jokes about star Rebel Wilson's weight—even though Wilson is the one doing most of the joking. Several critics have taken the show to task for relying too much on fat jokes that, says The Winnipeg Free Press, "quickly begin to feel more pathetic than amusing." Those who watch how the subject of weight is dealt with in entertainment are encouraged by this reviewing trend. "Every time I click on something [about Super Fun Night], I'm kind of wary," says Marianne Kirby, an author and activist who focuses on body image. "I do have that fear that it's going to be horrible. Then, when it's like, 'Hey, we don't want to watch her constantly put herself down, that's not funny and it's boring,' that is totally a pleasant surprise. I don't know that anybody said that to John Candy." [abcnews.com, 10/3/13; time.com, 10/3/13]
Novelist Tom Clancy, master of the modern-day military thriller, has died at the age of 66. Clancy became one of America's early multimedia superstars when his bestselling espionage and military novels such as The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games were given the big-screen treatment. Clancy's novels also served as the inspiration for several highly successful video game franchises, notably the Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell series. [cnn.com, 10/3/13]
A taut-but-straightforward story about a female astronaut floating free in space captured the nation's attention over the weekend. Gravity was not only the biggest theatrical bow ever during October, pulling in an estimated $55.6 million, but the biggest-ever debut for A-list stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. An estimated 80% of the film's weekend take came from 3-D and IMAX showings, no doubt helping the film's stratospheric bottom line. But it also enjoyed nearly universal praise from critics: A whopping 98% of more than 200 movie critics aggregated at Rotten Tomatoes gave the dramatically realistic space drama positive reviews—with many proclaiming the film an instant classic. [boxofficemojo.com, 10/6/13 stats]